South Korea refuses to 'coax' North Korea into talks by lifting sanctions

This undated picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Jan 13, 2015 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (centre) during an inspection of the Air and Anti-Air Force of the Korean People's Army (KPA) command in N
This undated picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Jan 13, 2015 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (centre) during an inspection of the Air and Anti-Air Force of the Korean People's Army (KPA) command in North Korea. South Korea on Monday, Jan 26, rejected North Korean calls to pave the way for talks by lifting sanctions, saying its desire to resume dialogue did not extend to "coaxing" Pyongyang to the negotiating table. -- PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea Monday rejected North Korean calls to pave the way for talks by lifting sanctions, saying its desire to resume dialogue did not extend to "coaxing" Pyongyang to the negotiating table.

Seoul has proposed high-level talks to discuss a range of issues, particularly the possibility of holding a reunion over the Lunar New Year period next month for families divided by the Korean War.

In a response last week, the North said the South should first lift sanctions it imposed in 2010 after an attack on a South Korean warship. "We believe that meeting such unfair demands even before talks begin is not conducive to fundamental progress in inter-Korean ties," said Mr Lim Byeong Cheol, the spokesman for Seoul's Unification Ministry. "Our government has no plans to pre-emptively take measures to meet the North's demands in order to coax it to the negotiating table."

With the Lunar New Year falling on Feb 19, time is fast running out to set up a family reunion. The last round of formal high-level talks was held in February last year and resulted in the North hosting a reunion the same month - the first such event for three years.

South Korea slapped sanctions on the North in the wake of the March 2010 sinking of one of its warships, the Cheonan.

The measure effectively froze all trade and investment with the North except for the Kaesong joint industrial zone.

Pyongyang has always denied any involvement in the sinking, which claimed the lives of 46 South Korean sailors.