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FM notes shift in N. Korea policy
SEOUL, Aug. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan on Wednesday noted a shift in Seoul's policy on North Korea, indicating a softening stance toward resuming talks with the communist state that killed dozens of South Koreans last year.

   Speaking at a meeting of the National Assembly's foreign affairs committee, Kim said the government's policy on Pyongyang has "changed for sure," despite the need to assess North Korea's behavior as a whole.

   Seoul has demanded that Pyongyang demonstrate a sincere attitude before the sides resume dialogue over the North's nuclear weapons program or any other issue. Nearly all forms of economic and political ties were suspended in the wake of last year's sinking of a South Korean warship and artillery shelling of a southern border island that left a total of 50 South Koreans dead. North Korea continues to deny any responsibility for the attacks, rejecting all calls from Seoul to apologize for the sinking.

   Asked whether the government has dropped its demand for an apology, Kim said he is "not saying that is 100 percent the case," although a shift in stance is certain.

   His remarks came amid a flurry of international talks aimed at seeking ways to reopen the stalled six-party denuclearization talks that involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States. The Koreas' top nuclear envoys held rare denuclearization talks on the sidelines of an Asian security forum in Bali, Indonesia, last month, setting in motion the so-called "three-step" process to resume the six-way forum. They were soon followed by talks between senior officials from Pyongyang and Washington in New York, the second step, although details of the meetings remain undisclosed.

   Kim also said he is aware of informal talks having taken place between Japan and North Korea, which Tokyo has said were only under-the-table negotiations ahead of official talks.

   hague@yna.co.kr
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