• N. Korea urges S. Korea to create dialogue mood

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    SEOUL: North Korea called on South Korea on Sunday to create a dialogue mood, citing the spread of anti-Pyongyang leaflets by activists here and the South’s annual joint military drills with the United States as hindrances.

    The North’s powerful National Defense Commission warned that the South will face stern punishment unless it changes course.

    It recalled leader Kim Jong-un’s peace overture in his New Year’s address. Kim emphasized the need for epoch-making changes in inter-Korean ties and said summit talks are possible.

    “But even a basic climate for dialogue has not been created as the north-south relations are not freed from the phase of freeze,” the commission said in an English-language statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

    Pyongyang made overtures to Seoul without any political or economic considerations, it claimed.

    “Improving and developing the inter-Korean relations is the task of the times which brooks no further delay,” it said. “The South Korean authorities should sincerely respond to our call for opening up a broad avenue to independent reunification by concerted efforts,” it added.

    It blamed the South for allowing activists to scatter leaflets across the border and sticking to plans to continue joint military trainings with the United States in March and another round of drills in August.

    The North will “resolutely punish” the South if it continues to challenge Pyongyang’s measures for dialogue, the commission warned.

    It did not, however, directly mention whether to accept the South’s offer of ministerial talks in January.

    Experts said the North’s latest statement placed more emphasis on dialogue than threats.

    “The statement this time is seen aimed at pressing the South to change its policy for dialogue on a higher level, rather than indicating a military response,” Yang Moo-jin, professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said.

    The rival Koreas are expected to continue a war of nerves over the South Korea-US defense drills in March, he added.

    YONHAP NEWS

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