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South Korea to consider North's motivation before peace talks

From Jiyeon Lee, CNN
South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak said that North Korea needs to work toward peace with deeds as well as words.
South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak said that North Korea needs to work toward peace with deeds as well as words.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • S. Korea: "Sincerity from the North is important."
  • The North has called for dialogue to mend their frayed relationship
  • Tensions are high between the two neighbors

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korea said Thursday it will have to consider the North's motivation in calling for unconditional peace talks before agreeing to them.

"We have always emphasized that sincerity from the North is important in inter-Korean talks and relations. Related ministries are currently reviewing the context and motivations behind the recent proposal," foreign ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said in a regular briefing to press members Thursday.

On Wednesday, the North Korean government issued a statement saying that the only way to mend the frayed relationship between the two neighbors is to open a dialogue.

"We are ready to meet anyone, anytime and anywhere, letting bygones be bygones, if he or she is willing to hand-in-hand with us," the statement said."Dialogue and negotiations cannot be properly conducted nor can they make smooth progress ... when mud-slinging and provocative acts against each other are allowed."

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In response, the South Korean foreign ministry said Thursday that the north should follow up its words with action.

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"I'm speaking in terms of principles. Given North Korea's recent provocations, and also the fact that it revealed its uranium enrichment program, going against expectations the international community has for its denuclearization, I'm simply saying that it's necessary to assess Pyongyang's true motivations by looking at specific actions," the spokesman said.

Tensions have been running high between North and South Korea ever since the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan last March, killing 46 sailors. South Korea and the international community blamed the North for the sinking, but Pyongyang has denied the accusations.

In November, North Korea said the South's navy fired into Northern waters and, in retaliation, it shelled Yeonpyeong Island, killing four South Koreans.

Since then, the North has called for better ties with South Korea, urging dialogue and cooperation this year, and asking the South to end its military exercises.

South Korea's president said in a televised New Year's address that North Korea needs to work toward peace with deeds.

"I remind the North that the path toward peace is yet open. The door for dialogue is still open. If the North exhibits sincerity, we have both the will and the plan to drastically enhance economic cooperation together with the international community," South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said.

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