South Korea still open to dialogue with North, president says
South Korea is willing to talk peace with its Stalinist neighbour, President Lee Myung Bak said Monday, but warned the North Korean regime that it must back up its words with deeds.
"I remind the North that the path toward peace is yet open. The door for dialogue is still open," Lee said in his New Year speech.
"Nuclear weapons and military adventurism must be discarded. The North must work toward peace and cooperation not only with rhetoric but also with deeds."
Relations on the Korean Peninsula deteriorated last year following the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which Seoul blamed on Pyongyang, and the November shelling of a Southern border island by North Korea.
Seoul had no other option than to beef up its defence after the North's attack on Yeonpyeong Island and would react strongly to further military provocation, Lee said.
He expressed hope for a revival of the six-party talks to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme and vowed to drastically step up economic cooperation with the impoverished communist state, should the North be sincere in its efforts.
The remarks mirrored what seemed to be a more conciliatory approach from Pyongyang in the new year, the Yonhap News Agency reported. In a January 1 editorial published in all North Korean newspapers, which is taken as a gauge of the country's foreign policy plans, the regime said confrontation should be defused as soon as possible.
The editorial toned down its usual criticism of the government in Seoul and backed off from threats of military retaliation against military drills conducted by South Korea in December, dpa reported.