North Korea slams South’s rejection of dialogue

North insists it is sincere in trying to mend ties after months of tensions.

Seoul: North Korea on Tuesday criticised South Korea`s rejection of its latest proposal for dialogue and insisted it is sincere in trying to mend relations after months of tensions.

Government newspaper Minju Josun, in an editorial carried by the official news agency, denounced Seoul for "dampening hopes for improved relations".

Pyongyang late Monday officially proposed dialogue with Seoul, less than two months after launching a deadly bombardment of a border island.

A sceptical Seoul immediately rejected the offer.

The South offered government-level talks but said the North must admit responsibility for a series of provocations and confirm its commitment to scrapping its nuclear programme.

A spokeswoman for Seoul`s Unification Ministry described the North`s proposals as "disguised peace overtures" to try to show the international community that it wants peace.

"Those who question our sincerity need to read our statement (offering dialogue) thoroughly. It offered extensive talks and negotiations with no conditions attached," said the Minju Josun editorial.

"Whether we have sincerity or not will be confirmed once we sit down face to face," the newspaper said, urging Seoul to "immediately stop libels and provocations" towards Pyongyang.

Three state bodies in the North sent notices Monday to the Unification Ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, calling for working-level talks in the North`s border city of Kaesong on January 27.

They also suggested talks between Red Cross organisations from the two sides in the South`s city of Munsan on February 01.

The November 23 attack on the South`s Yeonpyeong island killed four people including civilians and was the first shelling of a civilian area since the 1950-53 war.

After weeks of acute tensions and warnings of nuclear war, the North changed tack and called in a New Year message for improved relations.

It has also expressed conditional willingness to return to six-nation nuclear disarmament talks that it abandoned in April 2009, a month before staging a second nuclear test.

The two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the United States make up the talks group. Washington, Seoul and Tokyo say Pyongyang must improve relations with the South and show sincerity about disarmament before they can resume.

For its part, the North wants United Nations sanctions to be scrapped and a US commitment to hold talks on a formal peace treaty before it returns to the discussions, which have dragged on since 2003.

Bureau Report

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