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(LEAD) N. Korea stays silent on Seoul's talks offer
SEOUL, Aug. 1 (Yonhap) -- North Korea remained silent Thursday on South Korea's proposal for "final talks" to resolve all outstanding differences and reopen their joint industrial complex in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, the government said.

   Seoul made the final dialogue offer earlier this week after six rounds of working-level talks in July ended without the two Koreas reaching agreement on preconditions to resuming operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

   The communist country said it had no message to give to the South regarding the dialogue offer when opening contact was made at 9 a.m. via the inter-Korean communication line that runs through the neutral truce village of Panmunjom, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

   Thursday marks the fourth day of the North maintaining its silence on the matter since the offer was made.

  


Seoul's Minister of Unification Ryoo Kihl-jae on Sunday urged the North to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible and warned that failure to do so could force the South to take "grave" measures. He also told lawmakers from the main opposition Democratic Party earlier in the day that Seoul is dedicated to the development and growth of Kaesong, with the aims of transforming it into a globally competitive business region.

   The government has not elaborated on what actions it would take, although many have speculated that the country may close down the factory park or, at the very least, turn off its power and water supply.

   The policymaker, moreover, pointed out to lawmakers that the reasons bilateral talks on normalization have not made real progress is due to the lack of trust shown by the North on installing safeguards that will prevent another shutdown of the factory park in the future. The ongoing work stoppage may have caused loses up to 1.05 trillion won to the South Korean companies with factories at the border town.

   Ryoo made the remarks when lawmakers such as Kim Sung-gon and Won Hye-young blamed the government for not showing flexibility and for issuing strongly worded ultimatums to prod the North to accept talks that could backfire.

   Despite claims by some media outlets that predicted Seoul will make its move on Kaesong next week, policymakers here have steadfastly said no deadline has been set for a response from the North.

   However, they have also said they cannot wait indefinitely for the North's answer.

   "The government's stance securing safeguards for the complex remains unchanged and firm," a ministry official said, adding that Pyongyang needs to show sincerity and change its position on the safeguards issue, which is vital if Kaesong is to grow into an international industrial hub, the insider said.

   During the six rounds of working-level talks, the South has reiterated that in order to normalize operations at Kaesong, which has been closed since April, the North needs to give firm guarantees that it will never again restrict movement of people and materials or pull out its workers down the line.
The North has been reluctant to accept such conditions and instead insisted that operations must resume immediately. It also said that if the South provokes the North, it will reserve the right to restrict access to the park.

   Pyongyang also threatened that the industrial park can be taken back by its military or the North can move to operate the factories left behind by itself.

   The communist regime effectively declared an end to the talks last Thursday, saying that the South's unwillingness to compromise on the safeguards issue has prevented any headway from being made.

   yonngong@yna.co.kr
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