Wednesday, January 12, 2011

North Korea Asks South For Dialogue

TOKYO — North Korea on Monday invited the South to talks on economic ties. It was the North’s first formal offer of dialogue with South Korea since its lethal artillery bombardment of a South Korean island in November.

The South quickly rejected the offer, and made a counteroffer to meet first to discuss the artillery attack and the sinking earlier last year of a South Korean warship.

The North’s invitation, made through its state-run media, came as the reclusive Communist state has repeatedly made general appeals for dialogue, easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula that had seemed to reach a dangerous level after the November shelling. However, Monday’s offer was the first one that offered a specific time and topic.

That attack, on Yeonpyeong Island, killed four South Koreans and stirred intense public anger in the South against North Korea.

The North proposed that the two Koreas hold working-level talks on Jan. 27 to prepare the way for a higher-level meeting on Feb. 1 to discuss economic ties.

The South’s Unification Ministry, which manages inter-Korean ties, quickly rebuffed the offer as a ploy by the economically destitute North to win aid. It made a counteroffer for talks on the shelling of the island and the March sinking of the warship Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors.

The ministry said it wanted first to confirm the North’s sincerity in taking responsibility for the attacks. It said it also wanted assurances that such attacks would not happen again.

A version of this article appeared in print on January 11, 2011, on page A6 of the New York edition.

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