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South Korea to Review North’s Latest Call for Talks

Jan. 8 (Bloomberg) -- South Korea said it will review North Korea’s latest proposal to hold talks to ease hostilities, after rejecting an earlier offer this week.

“It’s still hard to say that North Korea has made an official proposal for talks,” Lee Jong Joo, a spokeswoman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry, said today in Seoul. “But as today’s statement contains more details, we will review it.”

North Korea today suggested discussions on resuming joint operations of the Mt. Geumgang resort and the Gaesong industrial complex by the end of January or early February. Both projects are in North Korea, which earlier this week proposed unconditional talks.

“We do not want to see the present South Korean authorities pass the five-year term without North-South dialogue,” the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement carried by the official Korea Central News Agency. “There is neither conditionality in the North’s proposal for dialogue, nor need to cast any doubt about its real intention.”

The overtures follow weeks of combative rhetoric from Kim Jong Il’s regime as tensions rose after its Nov. 23 artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island that killed four South Koreans. South Korean President Lee Myung Bak said Jan. 3 that his country was open to negotiations only if North Korea “exhibits sincerity.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley this week said Kim’s government must demonstrate it is prepared to have “serious and sustained discussions,” by renouncing further provocations against its neighbor, fulfilling commitments to dismantle its nuclear program, and admitting responsibility for last year’s attacks.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sookyung Seo in Seoul at sseo10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jim McDonald at jmcdonald8@bloomberg.net

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