After talks collapse, North reprimands ‘traitor’ South

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After talks collapse, North reprimands ‘traitor’ South

After military talks between North and South Korea collapsed on Wednesday, Pyongyang issued a lengthy, fulminating statement condemning the South Korean government and military, indicating that it may be a while before the two sides meet again.

And South Korea is preparing for another attack from the North as a result of the breakdown.

“Our military and people no longer feel the need to fraternize with the traitor party that refuses to talk at all and doesn’t wish for improvement in relations between the North and South,” the North Korean military said early yesterday in a statement reported by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

It was the first time in months the North referred to the South as a “traitor party,” a phrase used in the past to describe the South Korean government.

“The heinous intentions of the traitor party,” said the statement, “are to continue confrontation and conflict, and block the six-party talks and dialogue with other countries by pretending on the exterior to want to talk but refusing inter-Korean talks on the inside.

“Our military and people regard peace as important more than anyone, but never beg for it.”

The statement also provided the North’s version of how the talks broke down on Wednesday, when the North Korean delegation walked out in a huff 12 minutes after discussions resumed following lunch recess.

It asserted that the South had insisted that “responsible action” by the North for last year’s sinking of the South Korean corvette, the Cheonan, and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island be made part of the agenda for higher-level military talks.

The meeting on Wednesday was supposed to prepare for higher-level talks. The North had wanted to discuss its “stance on the two attacks and the prohibiting military action that can be considered provocations from both parties,” the statement said.

“[The South Korean delegation] made known their wicked plot to turn the North-South high-level military talks into another stage for North-South confrontation,” it continued. “We will strictly sum up all the traitor party’s anti-national, anti-peace and anti-unification crimes. A party that goes against the direction of the times will meet a pathetic end .?.?. Talks with talks, confrontation with confrontation, this is how our military and people traditionally respond.”

Seoul says that the door for talks between the North and South is still open, but government authorities believe it will take some time for the two parties to reconcile immediate differences.

“If North Korea agrees to the agenda [for proposed high-level military talks] and the ranks of participants attending, the door for conversation is open,” Col. Moon Sang-gyun, head of the South Korean delegation for this week’s inter-Korean talks, said yesterday. “It depends on what conditions they insist on.”

Moon also said that the North’s delegation only wanted to discuss last year’s attacks on South Korea during high-level military talks, while the South wanted to confirm that this would include an offer of some kind of responsible action from North Korea for the attacks. North Korea rejected that condition and walked out, he said.

Both delegations also disagreed on when high-level talks should be held and failed to reach agreement on what rank of military officials will participate. The North originally said on the first day of working-level talks on Tuesday that it wanted high-level talks on April 14, the day before North Korea founder Kim Il Sung’s birthday. The delegation then made another proposal on Wednesday to hold high-level discussions as soon as Feb. 18, two days after the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, but the South asked for more time to prepare.

The South Korean military is now preparing for a possible attack from the North in response to the abandoned talks, possibly this month.

“There is a high chance that North Korea will raise tensions by placing responsibility for the ruptured talks on South Korea. There is a high likelihood that there may be a provocation around the Key Resolve drill,” said a military source asking for anonymity, referring to a joint U.S.-South Korea military drill that will begin late this month.

South Korean intelligence has recently observed North Korean troops opening and closing the doors to their coastal artillery, along with other signs of possible preparations for an attack.

“North Korea has used a strategy involving both war and peace, with attacks in the midst of talks,” said a Joint Chiefs of Staff official. “They are continuing their military movements at the border even as they offer talks.”

Bilateral relations on the peninsula have grown cold again with no immediate solution in sight after Wednesday’s failed talks, which U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley called a “missed opportunity.”

“We certainly do believe that North Korea has to take responsibility for its recent actions, whether it’s the sinking of the Cheonan, the shelling of Yeonpyeong, and then demonstrate that it is going to take affirmative steps to reduce tensions in the Korean Peninsula,” Crowley said. “This was an opportunity to do that, and clearly, having North Korea walking out puts them in the category of a missed opportunity.”

By Christine Kim []
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