Gov't Softens Stance on Apology from N.Korea

      June 28, 2011 11:34

      South Korea is after all ready to hold unconditional inter-Korean nuclear talks without insisting on an apology from North Korea for last year's attacks on the Navy corvette Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island last year.

      The U-turn was announced by a senior South Korean government official on Monday after he returned from a visit to the U.S. He added there will be "another opportunity" to discuss the North's attacks on the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong.

      The announcement came right after Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan discussed Seoul's North Korea policy with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington. Seoul's insistence on an apology was increasingly seen in both China and the U.S. as the main obstacle to further talks with North Korea.

      Amid the North's abrupt revelation of secret inter-Korean contacts last month, the South apparently feared that insisting on an apology could scupper a three-stage plan whereby inter-Korean dialogue would precede talks between Washington and Pyongyang talks and finally a resumption of the six-party nuclear talks.

      Last Saturday, the North urged Seoul to "stop extremely provocative actions" and "withdraw a precondition" if it is "really interested in inter-Korean dialogue." The "precondition" apparently referred to the apology.

      The South Korean government official said the matter will not be swept under the carpet. "For the time being, we're willing to separate the apology demand from nuclear talks," he said. "But the matter is still on the table and the two Koreas must address it together."

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