S. Korea’s Park open to summit with Kim

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SEOUL: South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said on Monday she was willing to meet unconditionally with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, and urged Pyongyang to respond more “proactively” to Seoul’s offer for dialogue.

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Park, in her New Year’s press conference, added she was willing to “meet just about anyone” to ease tension on the peninsula and seek eventual reunification.

Seoul last month proposed rare high-level cross-border talks to discuss pressing issues including a reunion for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

Kim, in an apparent peace overture, said last week that he was open to “highest-level” talks with Seoul, but Pyongyang has yet to respond specifically to Seoul’s proposal for the meeting.

Park called on Pyongyang to answer the offer, saying: “The North should come forward to the talks proactively.”

She also proposed holding another family reunion on the Lunar New Year holiday in late February.

Park said Seoul set no preconditions for the proposed talks, but added Pyongyang needs to show “sincerity” over pressing issues such as disarming its nuclear arsenal.

Under the younger Kim’s leadership, the impoverished but nuclear-armed North staged its third atomic test in February, 2013 — its most powerful so far.

“The denuclearization issue has remained unresolved for long, we can’t talk about peaceful reunification while leaving the issue unresolved,” Park said.

The two Koreas previously held two summits in 2000 and 2007 under the South’s late liberal presidents, Kim Dae-Jung and Roh Moo-Hyun, respectively.

Both met with Kim Jong-Il — the North’s late longtime ruler and Jong-Un’s father who died in 2011.

The last round of formal high-level talks was held in February last year and resulted in the North hosting a rare union of the separated relatives.

The two Koreas agreed to restart dialogue when a top-ranking North Korean delegation made a surprise visit to the Asian Games held in the South in October.

But the talks never materialized and tensions soared again between Pyongyang and Seoul after a series of minor military skirmishes along the border.

Pyongyang also insisted that Seoul stop its activists from launching anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.

Seoul argued it had no legal grounds to prevent them, despite complaints from residents in border areas saying they feared for their safety after Pyongyang threatened retaliation.

Park on Monday refused to elaborate on her stance on the leaflets issue, saying she would try to “balance freedom of speech and safety of citizens.”

AFP

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