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S. Korea says N. Korea deceptive on dialogue

25 april 2011, 16:33
South Korea accused North Korea Monday of "deceptive" appeals for dialogue and said Pyongyang was determined to keep its nuclear weapons despite international efforts to revive disarmament talks, AFP reports.

Seoul's Unification Minister Hyun In-Taek, in a strongly-worded speech at the start of a week of nuclear diplomacy, also accused Pyongyang of exaggerating its food shortage for political reasons.

Four elder statesman including former US President Jimmy Carter are to visit the communist state this week for talks on reducing inter-Korean tensions, denuclearisation and food shortages.

China's nuclear envoy Wu Dawei is due in Seoul Tuesday for separate talks on reviving long-stalled six-party talks on the North's nuclear disarmament.

But Hyun, whose ministry handles cross-border affairs, blamed the North's "intransigence" for sour cross-border relations, which now "seem to be tangled in a tight knot".

Relations have been icy since Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives.

It denies the charge but shelled a South Korean border island last November, killing four people including civilians.

"At such a time, we can be neither pessimistic nor optimistic about the future of inter-Korea relations. It seems the Korean peninsula is now at an 'inflection point'," Hyun said in a speech to European business leaders, without elaborating.

"The root cause of such uncertainty is the North's intransigence."

The minister said Pyongyang's overtures this year "appeared to be a classic case of North Korea's deceptive 'peace offensive'", which he termed a worn-out tactic.

He said the North's political, economic and social circumstances were much more unstable than in the early 1990s when current leader Kim Jong-Il inherited power from his own father.

Leader Kim is now preparing for an eventual succession by his own son Kim Jong-Un.

There seemed "nearly no hope" for the North's state-directed economy, Hyun said.

But despite unprecedented appeals for international food aid, Hyun said the North's food shortage was not particularly worse this year and there appeared to be some political motivation for the pleas.

Some Seoul officials say the North is trying to stockpile food before a major anniversary next year.

China, with the North's consent, is trying to restart six-nation nuclear talks.

But Hyun said Pyongyang's reaction to developments in Libya "only revealed that North Korea is determined not to denuclearise itself".

Pyongyang has condemned air strikes by the US-led coalition on Libya, and said they resulted from that country's decision to give up its nuclear weapons.

The six-party talks hosted by China also group the two Koreas, the United States, Russia and Japan.

Hyun said the other five parties agree there should be inter-Korean talks, and then US-North Korean dialogue before the six-party talks resume.

But inter-Korean dialogue should not be a brief stopover en route to the six-party talks, he said.

"For us to move forward, North Korea must show a responsible attitude on last year's two brutal provocations. Only then will we be able to enter a new chapter in inter-Korean relations."

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