Seoul rejects Pyongyang’s offer for talks

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Seoul rejects Pyongyang’s offer for talks

The South Korean government on Tuesday rejected North Korea’s latest proposal for dialogue, saying Pyongyang must show its intention to dismantle its nuclear program before making such proposals.

Seoul’s rebuff of Pyongyang’s offer for a joint conference of around 100 political and social figures from each side was already expected given its repeated refusals to hold talks with Pyongyang, which has made a series of overtures since its seventh party congress held in early May.

“The North’s proposal to discuss ‘peace and unification’ at the same time when it tested six medium-range ballistic missiles (over the past two months) followed by its fourth nuclear test and a long-range missile launch lays bare how insincere the offer is,” said Jeong Joon-hee, spokesman of the Unification Ministry in Seoul in a statement.

Jeong added that if the North is sincere about improving inter-Korean ties, it should act in accordance with denuclearization principles.

Seoul’s response came as Pyongyang issued its proposal in an open latter carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency Tuesday to hold the joint conference to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the Aug. 15 Liberation Day.

The North said the letter was intended for senior presidential secretaries, including presidential chief of staff Lee Won-jong, leaders of political parties, National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun and leaders of social and religious groups.

Pyongyang said it had already formed a working group for the joint conference “in the spirit of reunification” and was offering to push for “a new history,” a claim scoffed at by Seoul. It then proposed a working-level meeting in July in preparation for the event.

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

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