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N Korea calls for end to hostility with South

Seoul, January 1, 2011

North Korea on Saturday called for an end to confrontation with the South, urging dialogue after one of the most violent years on the divided peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean War.

Tension between the rival Koreas has risen sharply after  the North shelled an island in the South near their disputed  sea border, killing four including two civilian residents.

And in March, the South blamed Pyongyang for torpedoing  one of its navy ships, killing 46 sailors. The North denies  the charge.

'Confrontation between north and south should be defused  as early as possible,' the three main official North Korean  newspapers including Rodong Sinmun said in a joint editorial carried by state news agency KCNA.

'Active efforts should be made to create an atmosphere of  dialogue and cooperation between north and south by placing  the common interests of the nation above anything else.'

Conspicuously absent from the 6,000-word New Year  editorial was any specific proposal for talks.

It largely repeated the wording from a New Year editorial 12 months ago, saying: 'National reconciliation and cooperation should be promoted actively.'

It also repeated that its top priority to remove all nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula. Two months ago, North Korea revealed advanced efforts to enrich uranium,  alarming regional powers because it could offer it a second  way to make nuclear weapons-grade material.

'(The North) is consistent in its stand and will to  achieve peace in Northeast Asia and denuclearization of the  whole of the Korean peninsula,' the joint editorial said.

Fresh talks?

Destitute and isolated North Korea walked away from  six-party talks aimed at compensating it for steps to  dismantle its nuclear programme, calling the process dead  because of what it said was a US intention to destroy its  regime.

It has since pledged a willingness to return to talks, but  Washington and Seoul are wary, unwilling to be seen as giving  in to Pyongyang's tactic of escalating tension, raising the  stakes, then coercing regional powers back to negotiations.

But, after months of tough talk of retaliation, South  Korean President Lee Myung-bak has left open the door to  dialogue with Pyongyang and said the nuclear crisis should be  resolved through the six-way talks involving the two Koreas,  the United States, Japan, Russia and China in the new year.

North Korea has twice set off nuclear devices but has yet  to show it has a working atomic bomb. Experts doubt it has the  ability to miniaturise a weapon to place on a missile.

Few analysts believe the North ever intends to give up the  pursuit of nuclear weapons but instead has tried to obtain  them as the crowning achievement of leader Kim Jong-il's  'military first' rule that has prevented a US invasion.

'Where our side uses its leverage tactically to return to  a diplomatic process, North Korea uses its provocations  strategically to expand its arsenal and develop nuclear-armed  ballistic missiles, with the eventual aim of forcing lasting  changes in the existing security apparatus in Northeast Asia,” Michael Green of the Center for Strategic and International  Studies in Washington, said in a recent column.

'By opportunistically advancing a long-term strategic plan  in this way, North Korea has enjoyed most of the initiative  over the past two decades,' Green, who was on US President  George W. Bush's team of negotiators on the North, said.

The North's editorial also repeated a pledge to rebuild  the economy with the aim of completing a 'great, prosperous  and powerful country' in 2012 on the centenary of state  founder Kim Il-sung's birth. – Reuters




Tags: North Korea | border | navy | Seoul | Pyongyang |

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