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(2nd LD) S. Korea accepts Pyongyang's offer of talks on Kaesong

2013/08/07 19:17

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with more details, comments throughout; CHANGES slug)

SEOUL, Aug. 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Wednesday accepted North Korea's proposal for a new round of talks next week to normalize operations at the inter-Korean factory park that has been closed for four months.

The Ministry of Unification said that the North's offer to hold working-level talks on Aug. 14, which would be the seventh round of talks following the failure of the previous six rounds of negotiations, can be viewed in a positive light.

"Seoul views the latest talks proposal as the North responding to repeated calls for dialogue from Seoul," ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said. "We hope the North will engage in dialogue in an earnest manner that can contribute to the constructive growth of the complex." he said.

He added the format of the talks will be unchanged from the past, but pointed out that releasing details of what will be discussed cannot be made public at present.

All operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex have been halted since early April after the North pulled all of its 53,000 workers from the complex amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The North's offer, which the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) made in a statement, follows more than a week of silence on Seoul's demand for "final talks" to resolve all outstanding issues surrounding operations at Kaesong.

In the statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the CPRK said that the two sides should work together to prevent a recurrence of the suspension of operations at Kaesong, like the one that occurred in early April. Pyongyang also offered safe passage to all South Koreans entering the complex and said it will protect the property of South Korean businesses there.

The temporary ban on operations announced by the North on April 8 will be lifted, and normal entry into the complex will be permitted, it added.

The CPRK said that the South should accept the talks offer without any preconditions so all differences can be dealt with through dialogue.

South Korea insisted the North must first give solid assurances that no closure repeats will take place if progress is to be made at talks aimed at normalizing the Kaesong complex.

Government sources declined to say if accepting the latest talks proposal reflects the government backtracking on its previously held stance that it will not agree to open the Kaesong complex unless the North gives strong assurances it will not close the region unilaterally.

North Korea analysts in Seoul said the North's offer falls short of what Seoul has been demanding with regards to safeguards, though the latest CPRK statement did not blame the South for the current impasse, which had been the North's stance.

yonngong@yna.co.kr

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