S. Korean overture to North

April 12, 2013 at 1:31 AM
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SEOUL, April 12 (UPI) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye says she plans to talk with North Korea, which experts Friday described to Yonhap News as an overture for dialogue.

Park expressed her intention to talk with the isolated Communist country before time ran out during a meeting with her party lawmakers even as the belligerent North continued to raise its war threats in the region, Yonhap reported, quoting meeting participants. Her comments come ahead of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to South Korea starting Friday.

Park was quoted as saying besides talking with North Korea, she also intends to continue the South's humanitarian assistance to the impoverished country despite the rising tensions.

Her comments followed that of Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae who Thursday urged the North for talks to resolve the suspension of operations at the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong. Operations there were suspended earlier this week after the North stopped its workers from reporting for duty as part of its continuing provocations and threats.

Yonhap, citing participants, quoted Park as telling the lawmakers that Ryoo's appeal was part of the efforts to open dialogue.

Experts said Park's remarks about a dialogue come even as she has ordered her military to deal strongly with North Korea if the situation worsens and South Koreans are threatened.

Park is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama next month.

"The point is on dialogue," Yang Moo-jin, a North Korea expert at the University of North Korean Studies, told Yonhap. "I think President Park is trying to handle the situation in a stable manner by activating the 'Korean Peninsula trust process' before it becomes more difficult to handle."

During her election campaign, Park had pledged to have dialogue and exchanges to build trust with the North.

Yun Deok-min, a senior analyst at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, also told Yonhap Park's comments could be seen as offering the North a face-saving way out of its current "chicken game."

Park's government also is involved in building the country's economy and does not want the tensions to affect that process.

South Korea, meanwhile, remained on the alert for any imminent North Korean ballistic missile test, along with Japan and the United States. The North also threatened to make preemptive nuclear strikes against the South and the United States and to restart its currently idled nuclear reactor.

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