Unification Ministry slams Pyongyang’s proposal

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Unification Ministry slams Pyongyang’s proposal

South Korea’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said yesterday that it was hard for the nation to accept North Korea’s proposal to halt all “hostile acts” toward each other, including the suspension of the upcoming joint military drills between Seoul and Washington.

“That is something difficult [for South Korea] to accept in reality,” Ryoo said at a hearing for lawmakers on the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee.

He did not mention, however, what exactly was hard to accept.

The minister’s remarks were in response to a statement released Monday by North Korea’s powerful National Defense Commission, chaired by leader Kim Jong-un, that demanded that South Korea halt all “psychological warfare” and “hostile military acts” starting July 4, which marks the anniversary of the signing of the July 4 South-North Joint Communique by the two Koreas in 1972.

The commission also called upon Seoul to cancel Ulchi Freedom Guardian, the joint military exercises between South Korea and its ally the United States that run from mid to late August, in order to create a conciliatory mood ahead of the upcoming Incheon Asian Games in September.

“The proposal is in line with other suggestions [made by North Korea] since January,” Ryoo said. “They all say the same thing - they talk about [ceasing] insults and mudslinging, but it is always North Korea that re-initiates those offenses.”

Following the minister’s comment, the Unification Ministry yesterday issued a statement in response to Pyongyang’s proposal, saying its conciliatory moves were “totally nonsense,” in that the regime has not given up on its nuclear ambitions.

“North Korea made the proposal, as well as claims that are totally nonsense and lack sincerity, blaming only our side for escalating military tensions and soured relations between the two Koreas,” a statement by the ministry said.

“It is totally nonsense to advocate the creation of a peaceful atmosphere while the North has refused to abandon its two-track strategy of developing its economy and its nuclear weapons program.”

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr ]

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