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ROK to look out for DPRK's response to offer of dialogue

By Agencies in Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-15 08:02

ROK to look out for DPRK's response to offer of dialogue

A man takes a picture of a child in front of dolls of soldiers from the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on display at the unification observation post near the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two neighbors since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, on Sunday. Lee Jin-man / Associated Press

The Republic of Korea said on Sunday that it will be watching for a response from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to its proposal to resolve rising tensions through dialogue, after Pyongyang's denunciation of the offer as a "cunning ploy".

"(The denunciation) was the initial reaction to our dialogue proposal," said a spokesperson for the Unification Ministry in charge of dialogue and cooperation with the DPRK. "(We) will watch situation more for the time being."

The statement came after a spokesman for the DPRK's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea slammed the dialogue overtures by the ROK.

The spokesman said the dialogue proposal was a "cunning ploy to conceal the criminal wrongdoings that drove the Kaesong Industrial Complex into crisis, mislead public opinion inside and outside and hide the policy of confrontation".

He described the dialogue offer as a "blushless act" and an "empty shell", saying the ROK has never given any apology for the joint military drills between Seoul and Washington.

The spokesman, however, said that it was up to the ROK whether Pyongyang will have dialogue with Seoul, opening the room for accepting the dialogue offer. ROK President Park Geun-hye said on Thursday that Seoul will push for dialogue with the DPRK. On the same day, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said that the normalization of the Kaesong complex should be made through dialogue, urging Pyongyang to "come to the dialogue table".

Simmering tensions

Tensions have been high for weeks, with Pyongyang threatening to attack Seoul and Washington for conducting joint military drills and supporting UN sanctions imposed on the DPRK for a February nuclear test.

While the threats are largely seen as rhetoric, US and ROK officials have said they believe the DPRK may test-fire a mid-range missile designed to reach the US territory of Guam.

Pyongyang also took a direct shot at Seoul by pulling more than 50,000 DPRK workers from their joint factory park on the border of Kaesong and denying ROK citizens access to the complex just north of the Demilitarized Zone.

The move has brought the ROK-run factories to a standstill, threatening a shutdown of the last joint project left between the two neighbors.

In terms of a possible missile test, US officials focused on the limits of Pyongyang's nuclear firepower on Friday, trying to shift attention from the disclosure that Pyongyang might be able to launch a nuclear strike. They insisted that while the unpredictable government might have rudimentary nuclear capabilities, it has not proven it has a weapon that could reach the US.

A senior defense official said the US sees a "strong likelihood" that the DPRK will launch a test missile in the coming days in defiance of international calls for restraint. The effort is expected to test the DPRK's ballistic missile technologies, not a nuclear weapon, said the official, who was granted anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. Unless the missile unexpectedly heads for a US or allied target, the Pentagon does not plan to try to shoot it down, several officials said. As a precaution, the US has arrayed in the Pacific a number of navy missile defense ships, tracking radars and other elements of its worldwide network for shooting down hostile missiles.


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