October 30, 2014 10:11
Pyongyang on Wednesday rejected Seoul's proposal to hold high-level cross-border talks at the truce village of Panmunjom on Thursday.
In a message to the Cheong Wa Dae Office of National Security via a military hotline early Wednesday morning, North Korea complained that Seoul is letting activists float propaganda leaflets across the border. "It's up to the South whether it wants to hold high-level talks or continue to let the leaflets float," it said.
That suggests Pyongyang has sniffed out a weakness in Seoul's armor and will make a halt to the leaflet campaign a condition for any talks.
"The launch of leaflets by civilian activists cannot be prevented by the government," a Unification Ministry spokesman said in a statement. "We can't even accept such an unreasonable request from the North."
But police attempted to stop activists over the weekend citing danger to third parties if North Korean soldiers shoot at the helium balloons, which may have encouraged Pyongyang in its insistence.
Senior officials from both Koreas tentatively agreed to hold the talks in late October or early November when they met in Incheon on Oct. 4.
Experts believe that North Korea is wrangling for leverage in the talks. But it is equally possible that the North had no intention of coming to the dialogue table and was merely fishing for a convenient excuse to cancel them.
The surprise visit by senior North Korean officials to the closing ceremony of the Asian Games may have been a pure propaganda exercise aimed at an international audience.
Seoul is keeping the doors open since the tentative agreement only committed the two sides to talks in late October or early November, and November has not yet begun.
Prof. Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University said, "There's a chance that the North will come to the dialogue table if activists don't insist on continuing their campaign into next month."
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