Say sorry, Seoul tells North

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Say sorry, Seoul tells North

South Korea said yesterday it wanted Pyongyang to apologize for the sinking of one of its warships before it considers a resumption of six-party talks on North Korean nuclear disarmament.

The comments followed a visit by a top Chinese envoy to Pyongyang this week to discuss the disarmament process, which has been stalled since communist North Korea stormed out of the talks in April last year.

“First of all, the North should take some sincere measures concerning the Cheonan incident,” South Korea’s foreign ministry deputy spokesman Shin Maeong-Ho told AFP.

“Under the current circumstances, it’s too early to talk about the resumption of the six-party talks,” he said in reference to the multilateral forum aimed at inducing the North to give up its nuclear arsenal.

Tensions have been running high on the Korean Peninsula since 46 sailors died in the March sinking of the naval ship Cheonan, with Seoul and Washington accusing the North of torpedoing the corvette.

Pyongyang has vehemently denied it was involved and fired off a barrage of threats and warnings to South Korea and the United States, which have been staging a series of military drills in a show of force against the North.

Wu Dawei, China’s special envoy on Korean affairs, visited North Korea from Monday to Wednesday, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

He “exchanged views with North Korea about maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and restarting the process of the six-party talks,” the ministry said on Thursday.

The multinational forum - which includes the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. - have been stalled since Pyongyang walked out in April last year and conducted its second nuclear test a month later.

Wu met senior North Korean officials including Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun and top nuclear envoy Kim Kye-gwan. They discussed maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula and resuming the six-party talks, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“They reached a full consensus of views on all the matters discussed,’’ the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported late Thursday. Neither China’s Foreign Ministry nor the KCNA gave any further details.

It wasn’t clear whether Wu’s trip would help lead to the restart of nuclear talks, as U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials have said that Pyongyang must come clean on the warship sinking and express a sincere willingness to disarm before the talks can resume.

In Washington on Thursday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that “there are specific things that North Korea can do to demonstrate a seriousness of purpose and to create an environment where future [nuclear disarmament] talks could be productive.”

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan also said Tuesday that the North should first apologize for the sinking and demonstrate its willingness to give up its nuclear programs through negotiations.

“Many people are skeptical about the North’s sincerity in the six-party talks,” he said. “It is not the right time for us to talk about exit strategies [with the current tension], such as resuming the six-party talks.”

Meanwhile, South Korea said its Red Cross sent North Korea another message Friday calling for the release of the crew of a fishing boat that Pyongyang is holding captive.

The 41-ton South Korean boat Daeseung was carrying four South Koreans and three Chinese fishermen when it disappeared Aug. 8 while apparently operating in a joint fishing area in the East Sea. Pyongyang confirmed Thursday it is holding the crew for questioning. AP, AFP, Yonhap
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