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North Korea not responsive to Seoul tourism offer

North Korea has not responded to South Korea offers to send individual tourists. File Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE
North Korea has not responded to South Korea offers to send individual tourists. File Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE

Jan. 21 (UPI) -- North Korea did not answer South Korea's proposal of permitting individual or independent tourists to travel to the North on Tuesday, focusing instead on "internal solidarity."

North Korean silence on Seoul's offer of friendlier ties comes a few days after reports in the South claimed the regime replaced Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho with Ri Son Gwon, the North Korean chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. North Korea has yet to publicly confirm the appointment.

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Ri has represented Pyongyang at working-level talks at Panmunjom, but earned notoriety in 2018 when he allegedly derided visiting South Korean business executives, including Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee, during a luncheon in Pyongyang.

On Tuesday, Korean Workers' Party paper Rodong Sinmun called for "overcoming the crisis with the Mount Paektu attack mindset," a reference to international sanctions.

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"Only by continuing to innovate, keep moving forward and attacking relentlessly will we be able to root out all the challenges and obstacles that hinder our progress and broaden the stride of the revolutionary march," North Korea state media said.

Mount Paektu is an important symbol for the ruling Kim family. North Korea claims founder Kim Il Sung resisted Japanese colonial rule by launching guerrilla attacks from the mountain, but historians say Kim was more active in northern China, and may have been active in a group under the Communist Party of China.

South Korea is acting alone in the Korean demilitarized zone in the absence of North Korea cooperation at the border.

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Newsis reported Tuesday Seoul's military is resuming excavation of Korean War remains at Arrowhead Hill.

The two Koreas had agreed to pursue joint excavation in the Sept. 19, 2018, military agreement.

Seoul's defense ministry also said it plans to launch a three-party council involving the North and South, as well as the United States, to improve freedom of movement in the disarmed Joint Security Area, according to the report.

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