South Korea drops apology demand for six-party talks: Report

Seoul relaxes demands for resumption of aid-for-disarmament talks with North.

Seoul: South Korea has relaxed its demands for the resumption of aid-for-disarmament talks with the rival North, local media reported on Friday, saying an apology for last year`s deadly attacks is not required to restart the process.

Instead, Seoul says the determining issue on whether the six-party talks process can be reconvened is Pyongyang`s sincerity about dismantling its nuclear weapons program, South Korean media quoted government officials as saying.

"The government has not changed its stance that it could (engage) in talks, including six-party talks, with the North even if the North does not apologise for the sinking of the Cheonan," the JoongAng Daily quoted a high-ranking government source as saying.

"Although the Cheonan sinking and the Yeonpyeong Island shelling are both issues close to our hearts, denuclearisation is a much more important issue at hand here," the unnamed source said.

The South has previously been vague about what precisely Pyongyang must say about the two attacks, at times demanding an apology, a show of regret or simply an admission of responsibility to allow talks to move on.

The North denies it was responsible for the attack on the Cheonan warship, and said the South had provoked its artillery strike against the island. Analysts say it is unlikely the North will change its stance.

Regional powers have demanded the two Koreas first resolve their differences through dialogue before any resumption of the six-party talks, which have been stalled since 2008.

Seoul has set a two-track path for inter-Korean dialogue, proposing the rivals meet for military talks to discuss last year`s attacks that killed a total of 50 people, and political talks to gauge the North`s sincerity about denuclearisation.

Bureau Report