January 25, 2011 09:53
South Korea is to send a message to the North on Wednesday or Thursday calling for denuclearization talks. Seoul is also going to accept a proposal from Pyongyang for military talks.
"Inter-Korean talks will give the same amount of importance to the denuclearization issue as to the question of North Korea taking responsible steps over its sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan and its shelling of Yeonpyeong Island," a government official said. "If the North accepts our proposal, we'll propose a preliminary round of high-level denuclearization talks."
He added the Unification Ministry will act as the communication channel, but the military talks will be handled by the Defense Ministry and the denuclearization talks by the Foreign Ministry.
For a preparatory round of military talks, the Defense Ministry is going to propose that officers in the rank of colonel from both sides meet in the truce village of Panmunjom in mid-February.
But a Unification Ministry official said there will be no military talks if the North in the preparatory round admits only the shelling of civilians on Yeonpyeong Island but continues to deny involvement in the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan.
A former senior Unification Ministry official who took part in many inter-Korean discussions said, "Generally it's hard to come up with any concrete agenda in a preliminary round apart from who the chief delegates are going to be and the date and venue for the main discussions, so the talks could go ahead if the North promises to 'present its views' on the two attacks in the main round."
Last Thursday, the North's minister of the people's armed forces sent a message calling for high-level military talks to "present its views" on the attacks and try to "reduce military tension" on the Korean Peninsula.
Seoul insists the North must apologize for the attacks and pledge to prevent a recurrence.
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