ROK accepts DPRK's proposal for Red Cross talks

Xinhua, February 9, 2011

South Korea accepted Wednesday a proposal by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to hold Red Cross talks over humanitarian issues, Seoul's unification ministry, which overseas inter-Korean affairs, said in a briefing.

South Korea's Red Cross sent a message earlier in the day to its counterpart north of the border, agreeing to the proposal "in principle" and suggesting discussing details of the talks after the two sides end separate working-level military talks currently underway, ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-ju told reporters in the press briefing.

"The government is aware of the importance and the urgent need to address humanitarian issues" including reuniting families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, Lee said, adding that the two sides will have to agree on procedural matters and other details before the talks can actually be held.

South Korea has been lackadaisical about inter-Korean dialogue, insisting that the DPRK should first take "responsible" measures for its acts Seoul has denounced as provocative. Seoul accuses "Pyongyang of sinking a warship and shelling a border island."

"Let me repeat that the government's stance hasn't changed and we still need to be convinced of North Korea (DPRK)'s sincerity in addressing the issues" of its alleged sinking and shelling attack, the spokeswoman said.

Pyongyang has denied its responsibility for the fatal sinking of a navy corvette and claimed its artillery shelling of the front- line island was for self-defense against South Korean and U.S. forces then engaged in a large-scale drill near a tense sea border off the west coast of the peninsula.

The ongoing separate colonel-level military talks, aimed at discussing holding high-level military talks down the road, have thus far made little progress as the "two estranged Koreas" failed to narrow differences over agenda to be discussed at the high- level talks.

Seoul and Pyongyang gave war-torn families on both sides of the border a rare chance to reunite last year after a series of Red Cross talks. Seoul has called for holding the event regularly on humanitarian grounds.