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Rival parties show mixed reaction toward N. Korean leader's new year message

2018/01/01 16:12

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SEOUL, Jan. 1 (Yonhap) -- Rival parties showed mixed reactions Monday toward the New Year's message from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in which he made an unexpected conciliatory gesture to the South and hinted at the possibility of sending athletes to the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games next month.

In a televised message, Kim said he could send a delegation to the games and is open to talks with Seoul over it. But he also made it clear that his country will not give up its nuclear and missile programs, saying that a "nuclear button" is always on his desk.

The ruling Democratic Party said his remarks are a positive sign that he wishes for the success of the Winter Olympics and proposed talks with Seoul to discuss necessary measures, including the dispatching of a North Korean delegation.

"The government needs to act composedly so that we can talk to the North about what is needed to improve strained ties, such as ministerial-level talks," the party spokeswoman Kim Hyun said. "The North, of course, must prove its sincerity by stopping all acts of provocation for the realization of inter-Korean talks and the stability of the peninsula."

   The minor centrist People's Party echoed the ruling party.

"We wish that it becomes a turning point for the two Koreas to make amends," it said. "It appears that Kim's message was an answer to the government's decision to delay the military drills with the U.S. during the Olympics."

   But the People's Party took a swipe at Kim for continuing to make nuclear threats, saying that it is "unacceptable in any case."

   Conservative parties, however, denounced the North's message as being ambivalent.

Rep. Chang Je-won of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party said that Kim did not hesitate to "hold the whole globe hostage with its nuclear threats, while at the same time speaking of peace through inter-Korean talks and wishing the best for the PyeongChang games."

   "It is a shallow charm offensive," Chang claimed and called on President Moon Jae-in to stop "begging Pyongyang for talks and face the truth."

   Rep. Yoo Ui-dong of the minor conservative Bareun Party said in a commentary that Kim's proposal for talks was doubtful, as it also emphasized the superiority of its nuclear development, which it claimed had reached its completion.

"The talks proposal must not be North's last resort to buy for time," he said.

elly@yna.co.kr

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