N Korea makes fresh talks offer

South describes proposal for unconditional negotiations as more concrete than previous one.

    Tensions between the two Koreas have remained high since a military altercation in November 2010 [AFP]

    North Korea has reiterated a proposal for unconditional talks with South Korea, in an apparent bid to ease tensions on the peninsula.

    The North's latest offer comes days after South Korea dismissed earlier calls for negotiation from the country.

    "We do not want to see the present South Korean authorities pass the five-year term of their office idly without North-South dialogue," the North's Committee for Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement.

    "There is neither conditionality in the North's proposal for dialogue nor need to cast any doubt about its real intention."

    The statement was released to the country's official Korean Central News Agency.

    Chun Hae-Sung, a South Korean unification ministry official, said South Korea will review the latest offer but that the North has not sent an official request for talks.

    The South had earlier this week dismissed calls for talks by the North, saying the country should show that it has changed through actions, rather than words.

    Lee Jong-Joo, a South Korean unification ministry spokesman, said this fresh offer for talks was more concrete than the previous one.

    Red Cross issue

    North Korea has also proposed an early resumption of talks between the two countries' Red Cross organisations on humanitarian issues, and other negotiations aimed at reviving economic relations.

    It also said that it would reopen an office at Kaesong City, near the border, that facilitated inter-Korean economic co-operation. That office had been closed after South Korea shut down almost all economic exchanges following the sinking of a South Korean warship in May last year.

    North Korea has consistently denied responsibility for that attack.

    Both South Korea and the US have been unclear as to what their preconditions would be to resume talks with the North.

    However, the US has urged the North to demonstrate a "seriousness of purpose".

    Tensions between the two Koreas escalated in November after a North Korean artillery barrage on a South Korean-held island near the disputed maritime border killed four South Koreans.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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