DPRK proposes talks with South Korea on economic co-op, cross-border tours

19:06, January 12, 2011      

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The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Wednesday proposed talks with South Korea next month over reopening suspended cross-border tours and a joint industrial complex, the latest in a series of conciliatory gestures to mend inter-Korean ties.

In three separate proposals, the DPRK suggested holding talks on Feb. 11 in the border town of Kaesong to discuss reopening tours to Mount Kumgang, suspended after a shooting death of a South Korean tourist in 2008, according to the Unification Ministry here.

Cross-border programs were once a lucrative source of hard cash for Pyongyang, but Seoul has been adamant in its stance that the tours will be suspended unless the DPRK allows a Seoul-led investigation into the shooting death and draws up safety measure to prevent recurrences.

It also proposed holding a working-level meeting on Feb. 9 in Kaesong over improving working conditions at their joint industrial park, the last-remaining symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation after Seoul severed nearly all exchanges with Pyongyang in protest against the fatal sinking of a warship blamed on Pyongyang's torpedo attack, a charge firmly denied by Pyongyang.

In yet another message, the DPRK renewed its call for reopening an office aimed at facilitating economic cooperation between the two estranged neighbors, expressing regret over Seoul's refusal to send South Korean officials back to the office.

Seoul has said there are currently virtually no joint economic projects that would require the presence of South Korean officials at the office, unilaterally shut down last year by the DPRK angered at Seoul's move to punish it for the sinking, which killed 46 sailors, by severing inter-Korean ties.

In an apparent reiteration of its dismissal of the recent peace overtures from north of the border as "insincere," the unification ministry repeated its demand that Pyongyang takes responsible measures for its alleged torpedo attack and shelling last November of a South Korean border island before seeking dialogues.

"We once again stress the fact that we proposed inter-Korean talks aimed at confirming sincerity of North Korea (DPRK)'s commitment to denuclearization," the unification spokesman said in a press release, referring to minister Hyun In-taek's recent remark.

Source: Xinhua

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