July 17, 2017 12:47
North Korea on Saturday gave its first official response to President Moon Jae-in's attempts at rapprochement, and it was largely scathing.
The official Rodong Sinmun daily in an editorial said an initiative Moon laid out in Berlin two weeks ago "is riddled with sophistries like sleep talking, which only pose hurdles rather than helping improve North-South relations."
But the daily added, "It is a relief [Moon] takes a different stance from his predecessors and vows to honor the previous inter-Korean declarations," in 2000 and 2007.
Moon's roadmap includes security guarantees as well as economic and diplomatic incentives if the North scraps its nuclear and missile programs, and it rules out the prospect of forced unification.
But the paper accused South Korea of contradicting itself by pursuing peace while tightening sanctions and called on Seoul to implement "a fundamental shift in policy and stance."
Still, the response was not quite as vociferous as in the recent past. "The level of criticism was weaker than what we feared," a government official here said. "If North Korea was completely uninterested in the Berlin initiative, it would have summed up its response in one word, but it didn't."
Meanwhile, the government on Monday proposed military talks with North Korea this week to discuss halting military provocations along the heavily armed border to mark the 64th anniversary of the armistice on July 27 that ended the Korea War.
If the North agrees to a meeting, it would mark the first official contact between the two sides in a year and seven months.
The Rodong Sinmun editorial said the "first step" the two Koreas need to take is to resolve the political and military standoff. A Unification Ministry official said, "It looks like North Korea has sent us a message opening the doors for military talks."
The Red Cross also proposed an inter-Korean meeting to discuss a reunion of families separated by the Korean War on Chusoek or Korean Thanksgiving Day on Oct. 4.
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