Seoul says Pyongyang’s offer is ‘fake’

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Seoul says Pyongyang’s offer is ‘fake’

South Korea’s Defense Ministry rejected the North’s latest offer for talks, saying that its offer, without any mention of denuclearization, is “a fake charm offensive lacking sincerity.”

“As we have repeatedly stated,” said Defense Ministry Spokesman Moon Sang-gyun during a regular press briefing Monday, “the North’s denuclearization must be priority in dialogue with North Korea.”

Seoul’s response to Pyongyang’s proposal for military talks came two days after the former received a letter through a military line across the border issued by the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces, proposing an inter-Korean military dialogue in late May or early June.

The North’s National Defense Commission, chaired by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, also made public a letter to the South on Friday calling for an inter-Korean military dialogue. The North made no mention of its nuclear program in either instance.

“In its reply rejecting the offer, the Defense Ministry emphasized that current tension on the Korean Peninsula stems from the North’s provocations,” said Moon, “which include the recent nuclear test and missile launches.” He added that the ministry expressed its regret that Pyongyang did not address the issue of denuclearization in its talk proposals.

Moon also said the ministry demanded that Pyongyang clarify its stance on building a nuclear arsenal.

In his speech during the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea earlier this month, Kim Jong-un made a conciliatory gesture toward Seoul by saying tensions along the border could be subdued and that misunderstandings between the two could be resolved through talks. However, this move came without any mention of freezing or shutting down the North’s nuclear development program.

Before the sudden shift in disposition, Pyongyang had heightened alarm on the peninsula by conducting its fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range missile launch the following month. In response, the Park Geun-hye government withdrew all South Korean companies from the joint industrial complex in Kaesong, bringing a closure to the last vestige of inter-Korean cooperation. In protest, Pyongyang severed all military communication lines across the border.

Seoul has made it clear it regards any contact with the North, without an agenda of nuclear resolution, as futile, and that it therefore will not sit down at the negotiation table unless Pyongyang is committed to discussing the eventual dismantlement of its nuclear program.

“Proposing military talks while blaming the South for military tensions on the border and avoiding mention of its nuclear program is nonsense,” Jeong Joon-hee, spokesman of the Unification Ministry in charge of handling inter-Korea relations, said Monday. “This puts all Korean people at risk and proves that the peace Pyongyang is calling for is, in fact, a fake one.”

Jeong also said the North’s charm offensive is a tactic to divide the public in the South, as there will likely be people here who will demand that the government accept Pyongyang’s proposal.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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