May 29, 2018 11:41
North Korea has again pressured South Korea to return a group of North Korean women who defected from a restaurant in China in 2016.
In an editorial titled "Unconditional Repatriation" on Sunday, the propaganda website Uriminzokkiri said, "Our people, who are being held against their will, must be returned to the arms of their family members without delay according to their wishes."
It accused the South of "inhumane acts" for refusing to repatriate the women after the "crime of enticement and forced abduction has become clear to the world." North Korea questioned South Korea's willingness to improve cross-border relations.
The demand came just after the North agreed to resume high-level talks later this week which were originally scheduled to take place on May 16 and canceled unilaterally by the North.
Pundits predict that North Korea will link the repatriation of the female defectors with South Korea's request to resume reunions of family members separated during the 1950-53 Korean War.
One researcher at a state-run think tank here said, "High-level talks will be held as planned on Friday since they were decided during the second summit" between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
"But a Red Cross meeting which is necessary for reunions of separated families to take place could be canceled," he added. "We cannot rule out the prospect of the North Koreans making a fuss over the repatriation of the female defectors during the upcoming high-level talks."
During high-level talks that took place in January of this year, which were the first of such kind between the two sides since the Moon Jae-in administration was launched, North Korea raised the issue of the female defectors and refused to accept South Korea's request to resume reunions of separated families.
The North went on the offensive again after a South Korean broadcaster reported last month that the defection was orchestrated by the National Intelligence Service.
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