Pyongyang says no to talks

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Pyongyang says no to talks

Pyongyang yesterday rejected Seoul’s offer to hold inter-Korea Red Cross working-level talks next week to establish regular reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

According to the Ministry of Unification, North Korea yesterday sent a message through the Panmunjom channel that stated, “Currently, the appropriate conditions and atmosphere for South-North Red Cross working-level contact have not been met.”

The North further conveyed that “based on current North-South relations regular family reunions and important humanitarian issues are not [subjects] that can be resolved through Red Cross talks.”

Pyongyang appears to be referring to the ongoing annual joint military drills between South Korea and the United States. The two-week Key Resolve exercises concluded yesterday, though the Foal Eagle joint field-training drills run until April 18.

The North has fired a slew of missiles in recent weeks and tested new rocket launchers, claiming it is part of the country’s regular military drills for self-defense purposes.

South Korea on Wednesday proposed Red Cross talks for next Wednesday to discuss regular meetings for war-torn families following family reunions held last month at North Korea’s Mount Kumgang resort, the first such reunions in more than three years. Ruling and opposition lawmakers in the South expressed disappointment at the North’s rejection.

“It is North Korea, not anyone else, that fired missiles and changed the atmosphere to that of a frigid one again after long-awaited improvement in inter-Korea relations and peace on the Korean Peninsula was reached through the family reunions,” said Min Hyun-joo, a ruling Saenuri Party spokesman. “If North Korea blames the atmosphere and rejects North-South Red Cross working-level talks, then who will believe its sincerity?”

Analysts have pointed out that North Korea would prefer high-level government talks for negotiating regular reunions for war-torn families, as Red Cross talks limit discussions on aid and political issues.

The North is currently busy preparing for its upcoming parliamentary elections Monday for its rubber-stamp legislature, for which leader Kim Jong-un has announced his candidacy.

The North’s official Korea Central News Agency reported yesterday that all candidates had completed registration with the state election committee for the polls for the Supreme People’s Assembly election, held every five years.

Kim is running for a seat for the first time since he succeeded his father as North Korea’s leader in 2011.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]


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