North Korea proposes talks, South Korea accepts move

Pyongyang, June 6 (IANS) North Korea Thursday proposed holding direct talks with South Korea on various issues. Seoul accepted it.

The four-point proposal was made by North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) in a special statement issued by its spokesman, the official KCNA news agency reported.

The proposal was accepted by South Korea's Ministry of Unification, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

"Seoul is considering the proposal in a positive light and hopes talks will erect trust between the two sides," the ministry's spokesman said in a statement.

The venue and time for such talks will be announced later, said Yonhap.

In its statement, North Korea said that firstly, it proposed "talks between authorities of the North and the South for the normalization of the operation in the KIZ and the resumption of tour of Mt. Kumgang on the occasion of the anniversary of the June 15 joint declaration", reported Xinhua.

"Such humanitarian issues as the reunion of separated families and their relatives can be discussed at the talks," said the statement, quoting an unnamed spokesman.

It added that the venue and the date of the talks can be set to the convenience of the South.

The June 15 declaration was issued at the historic 2000 summit meeting between late South Korean president Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. It led to a period of rapprochement between the two sides that saw large-scale bilateral cooperation and the promotion of economic ties.

Secondly, North Korea proposed promptly realizing visits to the Kaesong Industrial Zone (KIZ) and the resumption of tour of Mt. Kumgang by South Korean businessmen and opening the door to visits, contacts and cooperation among NGOs of South Korea.

Thirdly, North Korea proposed realizing joint events to mark the 13th anniversary of the June 15 declaration and jointly commemorating the 41st anniversary of the July 4 joint statement on peaceful reunification in the presence of the authorities of both sides.

Fourthly, as soon as the South Korean authorities respond to the proposal, all relevant measures concerning communications and liaison will be taken including reopening the Panmunjom Red Cross liaison channel, said the statement.

"If the South Korean authorities truly stand for building confidence and improving the north-south relations, they should not miss this opportunity but positively respond to our bold decision and sincere proposal, away from misguided speculation and suspicion," said the statement.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye Thursday urged Pyongyang to accept her administration's trust-building policy initiative that could open a new era of peace and hope on the peninsula.

"North Korea must accept the hand of reconciliation being offered by South Korea and the global community and strive for mutual prosperity," said Park in her Memorial Day speech at the Seoul National Cemetery.

Pyongyang shut down the KIZ in early April and pulled out 53,000 North Korean workers. South Korea also withdrew its workers starting April 26 after Pyongyang rejected Seoul's proposal for working level talks.

The industrial zone, which is under the joint management of South Korea and North Korea and a key symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation, is facing its worst crisis since it opened in late 2004.

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