South Korea seeks talks with North

untitled11.bmpKUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – South Korea on Tuesday sought talks with North Korea, which would be their highest-level meeting since North Korean missile tests three weeks ago.

South Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said he wanted to meet his North Korean counterpart, Paek Nam-sun, this week on the sidelines of a Southeast Asian regional meeting in Malaysia.

“I have proposed to meet, but I have not received any firm confirmation from the North Korean foreign minister,” Ban told reporters on arrival at Kuala Lumpur airport.

North Korea angered its neighbors and the wider international community on July 5 when it defied international warnings and went ahead with a series of missile tests.


Ties between the two Koreas, which had been warming over the past few years, turned chilly again after the tests. North Korea walked out of a cabinet-level meeting in July and halted a number of projects with the South.

North and South Korean foreign ministers have not met since last year, when they also chose to meet on the sidelines of talks hosted the Association of South East Asian Nations


South Korea also hopes that the North Korean foreign minister will engage in wider six-party talks over its nuclear-weapons activities at this week’s ASEAN meetings in Malaysia.

“I urge him to return to six-party talks as soon as possible,” Ban said.

The six-party talks — comprising the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia — have been stalled since the last round in November, with North Korea objecting to a U.S. crackdown on firms it suspects of aiding Pyongyang in illicit activities such as counterfeiting and drug running.

But the prospects of renewed talks in Malaysia, where all six parties will be taking part in an ASEAN-sponsored security forum on Friday, appeared to have dimmed in the past two days.

North Korea’s state news agency called U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a “political imbecile” and state-owned Bank of China froze North Korea-related assets in its Macau branch. An unconfirmed report says the bank’s move was in response to North Korean counterfeiting of Chinese currency.

“We will try our best to have six-party, but in the event the six-party is not going to be realized due to North Korean non-participation, then we will discuss the matter with the countries interested … on what to do,” Ban said.


He confirmed he would hold bilateral talks with his Japanese counterpart, Taro Aso, this week. The two foreign ministers held one of their infrequent meetings in May when they held talks on the sidelines of a regional forum in Doha.

“There are a lot of issues between the two countries,” Ban said. “We are going to discuss the missile tests, nuclear talks and history disputes.”

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