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N. Korea stays silent on Seoul's offer for Kaesong talks

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 unification minister, Ryoo Kihl-jae, urged the North on Sunday to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible and warned that failure to do so can force the South to take "grave" measures.

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 the power and water supply at the factory zone.

No deadline to resume the talks was given, but policymakers here said they cannot wait indefinitely for the North's answer.

"The North's liaison officer said he had nothing to say," a ministry official said. Seoul's stance on the talks issue is firm and makes clear 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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