N.Korea Backpedals Over Talks

      January 27, 2011 09:09

      North Korea on Wednesday complained the South should set no "unilateral preconditions" for dialogue or "attempt to dictate the order of various talks," apparently irked by the South's insistence that Pyongyang must apologize for last year's provocations before talks can progress to other issues.

      A spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry made the remarks in a statement, adding, "It is important to maintain the right atmosphere for dialogue."

      "A genuine attitude to dialogue is to untangle knots one by one based on the principle of seeking common ground but putting aside differences," the spokesman added.

      Soldiers stand guard at the barbed wire fence in Paju, Gyeonggi Province near the demilitarized zone.

      The statement apparently targets the South Korean government position that the North must apologize for sinking the Navy corvette Cheonan and shelling Yeonpyeong Island and show it is sincere about denuclearization if genuine talks are to go ahead. The North earlier called for the two sides to "present their views" about the provocations in high-level military talks.

      "Dialogue is essential to remove the root cause of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula -- a problem caused by the U.S. threat of nuclear war and its hostile policy toward" North Korea, the statement said. The spokesman claimed the North remains determined "to realize denuclearization of the entire peninsula" or "fully implement" the Sept. 19, 2005 joint statement agreed in the six-party nuclear talks "based on the spirit of equality and concurrent action."

      By "concurrent action" the North means its belief that the joint statement stipulates a tit-for-tat arrangement rewarding the North with a concession for each small step toward denuclearization.

      Meanwhile, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin sent a message to his North Korean counterpart Kim Yong-chun the same day proposing that the two sides hold a preliminary working-level meeting in preparation for military talks on the southern side of the truce village of Panmunjom on Feb. 11.

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