January 06, 2011 07:34
North Korea says it wants to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula by holding what it calls "unconditional and early" talks with the South.
North Korea's government, political parties and social organizations issued a statement carried by the official news media Wednesday, saying they are ready to meet "anyone anywhere" for dialogue on the future of inter-Korean relations.
But South Korean officials dealing with the North were dismissive of the offer, saying they want actions, not words from Pyongyang.
Earlier, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan expressed support for direct talks with the North. He said they would help create the right atmosphere for resuming six-party negotiations on North Korea's nuclear disarmament.
In his New year's address to the nation Monday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Seoul is open to dialogue, but that it will respond sternly to any new provocation from Pyongyang.
The United States also called on North Korea to demonstrate it is serious about wanting to resume dialogue with South Korea and other parties in nuclear disarmament talks. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley reiterated Wednesday that Pyongyang must commit to stopping what he called "provocations" and agree to carry out its obligation from a 2005 denuclearization agreement.
North Korean calls for dialogue follow weeks of hostile rhetoric between the two Koreas and military drills by both countries. Tensions between them soared to the highest level in years after North Korea shelled a South Korean island in November, killing four people.
Foreign Minister Kim discussed the situation in Seoul Wednesday with the U.S. envoy on North Korea issues, Stephen Bosworth. Bosworth said the United States would "never" pressure its South Korean ally on how to deal with the North.
The U.S. diplomat is now in Beijing for talks with Chinese officials aimed at encouraging a negotiated resolution of the inter-Korean tensions. China is North Korea's only major ally. Bosworth also is due to discuss the issue with Japanese officials in Tokyo Thursday.
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