NKorea proposes talks on economic cooperation with SKorea

Seoul, Jan 13 (Yonhap) North Korea has formally proposedholding talks with South Korea next month on ways to promoteeconomic cooperation between the countries, the governmenthere said.

In a pair of messages, the North proposed the sides meeton February 11 to discuss the resumption of cross-border toursand on February 9 to facilitate their cooperation involving ajoint factory complex in the communist country, theUnification Ministry said in a release.

In a separate message, the North also expressed regretover the South''s decision not to send officials back to aninter-Korean office that Pyongyang had earlier promised toreopen in an apparent gesture aimed at reviving cross-borderdialogue, the ministry said.

The moves coincided with the restoration of a Red Crosshotline at the border truce village of Panmunjom thatstraddles the Koreas.

North Korea had shut down the line in May of last yearafter South Korea condemned the country for the deadly sinkingof its warship.

Despite tensions that soared after the North shelled aSouth Korean border island on November 23, Pyongyang isstepping up its charm offensive toward South Korea, a movethat officials here have discounted as an attempt to extractbadly-needed aid from Seoul.

South Korea says it will not consider the North''s peaceoffensive as genuine until Pyongyang agrees to assure Seoul ofits commitment to denuclearization and take steps to accountfor its provocations.

"The proposals the North made today appear to be lackingsincerity as they fail to show its intention to discuss issuesthat we consider essential," a ministry official said, askingnot to be named as the response has yet to be formallyannounced.

North Korea generally shuns discussions on its nucleararms development in dialogue with South Korea, saying theactivity is aimed at deterring a US invasion.

In the messages to the South yesterday, the North alsorefrained from mentioning the series of deadly incidents thattook place last year between the two countries, UnificationMinistry officials said.

The two Koreas remain technically at war after the1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peacetreaty.(Yonhap)

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