North Korea dismisses South Korea's wish for better ties as 'nonsense' amid sanctions

Army personnel and people gather at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on July 6, 2017.
Army personnel and people gather at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on July 6, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL - North Korea said on Thursday (July 20) that it is nonsense for South Korea to hope for better ties between the two countries while hanging on to a confrontational policy against the North, Yonhap news agency reported.

The comments came after Seoul offered on Monday to hold rare military talks with Pyongyang on Friday, with the aim to ease tensions after North Korea tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The Red Cross in Seoul also proposed a separate meeting on Aug 1 to discuss reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, Agence France-Presse reported earlier.

If the talks go ahead, they will take place at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's main newspaper, called on South Korea to make a decision over its sanctions-oriented approach towards Pyongyang and submission to the United States, according to Yonhap.

"Ditching confrontation and hostility is a precondition for opening the door for the two Koreas' reconciliation and unity," Yonhap said, quoting the newspaper.

South Korean President Moon Jae In, who took power in May, has advocated dialogue with the nuclear-armed North to bring it to the negotiating table, and vowed to play a more active role in global efforts to tame the South's unpredictable neighbour.

Earlier this month (July), Mr Moon reaffirmed his commitment to dialogue in a speech in Berlin, days after Pyongyang conducted its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 4, NYTimes reported.

Communication between the two Koreas has been cut off by the North since February 2016, when South Korea shut down a joint industrial complex in the North Korean border city of Kaesong in response to Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests, said Yonhap.

North Korea has not responded to the dialogue offered by South Korea as well as the meeting proposed by the Red Cross.

A South Korean Unification Ministry official said he does not see Rodong Sinmun's comments as an official response to Seoul's proposed dialogue on Friday, according to Yonhap.

With the dialogue date drawing nearer and no answer coming from the North, the Unification Ministry official said it now looks unlikely that the dialogue would take place on Friday as proposed.

"But it is important for South and North Korea to take initiative in resolving issues on the Korean Peninsula," the official said, as quoted by Yonhap.

"There is no deadline for Seoul's efforts (to improve ties) via dialogue," he added.