South Korea regrets North’s silence on dialogue

Seoul, Jan 28: South Korea expressed regrets to North Korea Tuesday as Pyongyang was yet to give any response to Seoul’s proposal to hold working-level dialogue to sort out details on the agreed reunion of separated families.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry said in an e-mailed statement that Pyongyang has sent no response yet to its offer to hold working-level contacts between inter-Korean Red Cross officials, Xinhua reported.

The offer was made Monday to discuss details on reunion of separated families, which had been agreed upon by both sides last week, the ministry said.

Seoul proposed Monday to hold the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War from Feb 17 to 22 at North Korea’s scenic resort of Mount Kumgang.

North Korea had said last Friday that South Korea could set the dates for the reunion at its convenience.

To discuss preparations necessary for the family reunion, which was last held in 2010, South Korea offered to hold the working-level meeting Wednesday at Tongilgak, an administrative building on the North Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjeom.

Given North Korea, the working-level meeting is unlikely to be held Wednesday.

The ministry expressed regrets over North Korea’s silence,saying that such attitude from the country came despite the agreement to the reunion. The ministry urged Pyongyang to rapidly respond to the dialogue offer.

North Korea’s National Defence Commission sent a notice Monday afternoon to South Korea’s top presidential security adviser Kim Jang-soo, saying that South Korea should cancel its scheduled firing drills near the disputed western sea border.

In response, Seoul sent a notice to Pyongyang earlier Tuesday, saying that the drill is “legitimate” as it has been conducted in its territorial waters regularly.

The notice stressed that the family reunion should not be affected by the naval firing drill, according to Seoul’s defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok.

Despite North Korea’s protest, South Korean Marine Corps carried out a firing exercise near the western border islands of Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong in the afternoon.

South Korea strengthened its military capabilities near the western sea border following North Korea’s artillery attack on the Yeonpyeong island in 2010, which killed four South Koreans.

Seoul and Washington are set to conduct their annual military drills from late February to April, which Pyongyang has denounced as a rehearsal for the northward invasion.

IANS