ROK rejects DPRK's call for talks

(China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-01 08:09
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Two sides have not agreed on a date to meet

SEOUL - The Republic of Korea (ROK) on Monday rejected a proposal by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to bring forward military talks by 10 days, saying it was not enough time to prepare for their first dialogue since the DPRK's shelling of a border island last year.

Pyongyang sent a message to the ROK's defense ministry at the weekend calling for the preliminary talks, which Seoul has suggested take place at the Panmunjom truce village on Feb 11, to start on Tuesday.

It was not immediately clear why the DPRK wanted an earlier date.

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Talks at the military and political level between the neighbors are routinely set after proposals and counterproposals as the two sides vie for higher bargaining positions and rarely break down over scheduling conflicts.

Such trouble is not anticipated this time either, a defense ministry official said.

The DPRK has agreed to discuss the shelling of the ROK island of Yeonpyeong in November and the sinking of a ROK navy ship in March that Seoul blames on Pyongyang. The DPRK says Seoul provoked the island attack by test-firing shells into its waters, and says it had nothing to do with the sinking of the Cheonan warship.

The working-level preliminary talks are meant to set the agenda for a more senior meeting, possibly at the ministerial level. Tensions have risen on the peninsula over the past 12 months, with the attack on the ROK as well as the DPRK's revelations of big advances in its nuclear program.

But the main allies of the two neighbors - the US and China - have nudged the neighbors back to the negotiating table to defuse tensions in a region which is responsible for one-sixth of the world's economy.

The ROK wants to take a two-track approach to dialogue with the DPRK - one to discuss the two attacks, and the other to see how to move forward on the stalled Six-Party Talks.

Pyongyang has yet to respond to the ROK's proposal for bilateral nuclear talks.