SEOUL: South Korea on Monday spurned North Korea’s demands that Seoul should first remove cross-border sanctions and halt joint military drills with the United States before trying to hold inter-Korean dialogue.
Since Seoul’s offer to hold high-level talks in late December, the North has repeatedly called for the lifting of the so-called May 24 sanctions and the suspension of annual joint military drills with the U.S. without accepting or rejecting the overture.
Following the North’s torpedoing of the South Korean Navy ship Cheonan in March 2010, Seoul slapped a sweeping set of cross-border sanctions on the North, virtually blocking all inter-Korean projects and exchanges.
“Our government is not considering taking pre-emptive action toward those preconditions in order to coax the North to the negotiating table,” unification ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol said in a briefing.
“Those preconditions are issues that North Korea should resolve through discussion with our government,” Lim noted, again prodding North Korea to come to the negotiating table.
If North Korea wants to improve inter-Korean relations, it should come forward to hold a dialogue without making unilateral claims, the spokesman added.
Lim said the communist country appears to be inclined to hold talks with Seoul based on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s speech.
Kim alluded to his intention to respond positively to Seoul’s December talks offer.
The spokesman also noted that the month-long offer remains effective even after the end of January.
Seoul’s dialogue offer was designed to discuss various pending issues, including arranging the humanitarian reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War for the Lunar New Year holiday season, which falls in mid-February.