Ministry will seek dialogue channel with North

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Ministry will seek dialogue channel with North

WASHINGTON - South Korea wants to establish a “stable dialogue channel” with North Korea that won’t be affected by tensions on the peninsula, Seoul’s top policy maker on the communist neighbor said Thursday.

“Once a channel for [formal] dialogue with North Korea is opened, I will talk about this issue as a top priority,” Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik told Korean correspondents here.

He added that it was important for the two Koreas to continue government-level communications especially when their relations deteriorated.

The minister, formerly chief of staff to President Lee Myung-bak and ambassador to China, said Seoul had some flexibility in nonpolitical assistance and exchanges with the North.

“The South Korean government will keep its principled approach on North Korea. However, I am also looking for ways to increase flexibility in nonpolitical areas,” he said.

But he ruled out any large-scale government aid to the North before it offered an apology for its two deadly military provocations last year.

“I don’t have a plan to back off on that part,” Yu said.

Last month, Yu replaced Hyun In-taek, known for his hard-line policy on Pyongyang, raising hopes of a change in mood in inter-Korean ties.

Yu confirmed that his ministry was working on a bill to create a fund aimed at preparing for reunification with the North. “A draft bill is almost complete,” he said.

The bill would call for the creation of a 55 trillion won ($55 billion) fund using taxpayer’s money and private donations, he said.

Yu arrived here on Wednesday and is the first unification minister to make an official trip to the United States since 2005. Yonhap

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