June 02, 2011 12:45
An official at the Unification Ministry on Wednesday admitted that secret contacts took place with North Korean officials, but denied the aim of the meeting was to "beg" for a summit, as North Korea claimed in an earlier statement.
South Korean officials "demanded a clear admission of and apology for the attacks against the Navy corvette Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island, together with a pledge from North Korea not to repeat such acts and were waiting for a response," a Unification Ministry official said. "North Korea distorted the facts by making it appear as if we were insisting on a summit."
Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung separately told a press briefing, "I do not feel it is necessary to respond to each unilateral claim made by North Korea that distorts the facts."
A government source said, "To my knowledge, North Korea's response was not that bad after the meeting. I think there must be some complicated issues at play inside the North Korean government, judging by its unilateral revelation of these distorted facts." He said the two sides "discussed specific wording to be used in an apology for the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong incidents."
In April and May, when the two sides were holding secret contacts, the North stopped its calls for talks and dialogue. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited China shortly afterwards.
A Unification Ministry official said, "The Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island attacks are the most important issues in inter-Korean relations, and we discussed the possibility of a summit based on the resolution of those issues." But he declined to say which side was the first to propose the secret contact or who attended the meeting.
A source familiar with North Korean affairs, said, "It looks like Won Tong-yon, the deputy director of the United Front Department at the North Korean Worker's Party, which handles South Korea policies, came to the meeting." Won also held two meetings with senior Unification Ministry official Kim Chun-shik in Kaesong in November 2009.
Meanwhile, the military said there are no unusual movements being detected from the North Korean military. But alert levels have been raised in the South in response to the latest situation. "North Korea's revelations of secret contact with South Korea can be interpreted a message that it will not hold any dialogue with the South," an officer said. "With the increased possibility of provocations, we are monitoring North Korea's moves."
The military also plans to bolster cooperation with U.S. forces. The U.S.-South Korean Combined Forces Command has apparently kept its Watchcon alert at level 3 out five.
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