June 07, 2013 09:21
North Korea on Thursday proposed ministerial talks with South Korea to discuss resuming stalled inter-Korean projects, from the Kaesong Industrial Complex and tours to Mt. Kumgang to reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean war.
Seoul accepted and suggested meeting in Seoul next Wednesday.
The North's proposal came just a day before the leaders of the U.S. and China sit down for a summit and marks the impending anniversary of the June 15, 2000 Joint Declaration.
North Korea had previously rejected several offers of talks from South Korea.
The government here is trying to establish whether North Korea is genuinely interested in improving relations or whether it is just acquiescing temporarily to pressure from China to escape its international isolation.
North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland in a statement said, "We propose talks between authorities of the North and South for the normalization of operations at Kaesong and the resumption of tours to Mt. Kumgang on the occasion of the anniversary of the June 15 Joint Declaration."
It added that reunions of separated families could be included and asked the South to name a date and venue. Pyongyang also said if Seoul accepts the proposal it will reconnect a Red Cross hotline that runs through the border truce village of Panmunjom.
Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae at a press conference Thursday evening said Seoul view the offer "positively."
Ryoo asked North Korea to re-establish inter-Korean communication channels on Friday to allow officials to prepare for the meeting. He did not go into details about the agenda.
But a government official said Seoul is wary. "We will not be fooled by North Korea's tactic of trying to impact the summits between the U.S. and China and China and South Korea," a government official here said. "We won't simply go along with the agenda North Korea has proposed."
Yoo Ho-yeol at Korea University said the main objective of Pyongyang's offer "is to prevent China from joining the U.S. in pressuring the North… By demonstrating that tensions on the Korean Peninsula have eased, Pyongyang probably wants to get China to nudge the U.S. into dialogue with North Korea."
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