Date for high level talks not set

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Date for high level talks not set

The two Koreas continued a tug-of-war over high-level government talks as the North complains about propaganda leaflets flown over the border while Seoul keeps insisting Pyongyang respond to a proposed date.

The National Security Office of the Blue House sent a message to the North yesterday morning, the Unification Ministry said yesterday.

“The message said the government’s position remains unchanged that we cannot restrict the civic groups [sending propaganda leaflets] without legal grounds,” the ministry said.

“The government also demanded that the North make clear its position first on the second round of high-level talks.”

At an Oct. 4 meeting with a delegation of top North Korean leaders during their surprise visit to the South, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to resume high-level contacts. The North proposed that the talks be held late this month or early next month. On Oct. 13, the South suggested the meeting be held this Thursday.

The North did not respond to the proposed date. But it has issued almost daily messages to the South that the Park Geun-hye administration should stop civic groups from sending leaflets critical of Pyongyang across the demilitarized zone via balloons if it wants the talks to take place.

The latest statement from the North arrived early Sunday morning, the Unification Ministry said.

The message issued by the secretariat of the North’s National Defense Commission was sent to the Blue House’s National Security Office using the military communication line on the west coast.

In the message, the North said the South Korean government facilitated the civic groups’ dispatching of propaganda Saturday evening, although an earlier plan to send balloons during the daytime failed when residents of the border town of Paju physically blocked activists.

Later that evening, organizer Park Sang-hak managed to send a balloon across the border from Gimpo, Gyeonggi.

“This shows that the South does not respect the North’s request to keep alive the mood of inter-Korean reconciliation,” the North said. “The South must think about whether a second round of high-level contacts can take place amidst this situation.”

The first round by vice-ministerial-level officials from Seoul and Pyongyang took place in February. No follow-up meeting took place. At the February meeting, the North reiterated its usual demands that the South stop its routine military exercises with the United States.

It also asked the South Korean government to control local media critical of the communist regime. South Korean negotiators replied that the government has no control over the media in a democracy.

At yesterday’s briefing, the Park administration once again pressured the North to respect its agreement to hold the second round.

“The government’s position remains unchanged that the contact must take place as the two Koreas agreed,” Lim Byeong-cheol, Unification Ministry spokesman said. “We cannot accept the North’s stance of blaming the leaflet sending and the North cannot use our constitutional values as an excuse.”


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