South Korea: Open for Dialogue With North, Ready for Defense

Posted December 22nd, 2011 at 5:00 pm (UTC-5)
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South Korea says it is open to dialogue with its northern neighbor, but that it is also ready for a swift response to any possible hostility from North Korea.

South Korea's Defense Minister Yu Woo-ik told parliament Thursday that Seoul would take every counter-measure into consideration to ensure national security.

South Korea has been scrutinizing developments in the North for any signs of instability since the death of its leader Kim Jong Il. North Korea has a nuclear arms program and one of the world's largest armies. In 2010, it shelled South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island and Seoul blames it for sinking its warship Cheonan, which Pyongyang denies.

South Korean Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said he does not see Pyongyang apologizing for either incident, but said all the relevant channels for talks will be secured.

“We will secure relevant stable channels for dialogue in accordance to the development of the situation and resort to multiple channels for talks. We consider it necessary to have communication with the North.”

South Korea insists on an apology for the two incidents as a condition to resuming stalled six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament in exchange for aid.

Former chief U.S. negotiator for North Korea Robert Galluci told VOA says the country needs to be given time to mourn the demise of its longtime leader.

“I think we should certainly stand ready to proceed with negotiations. We should not be breathless about this. There is no reason for that. But we were discussing resuming discussions about the nuclear program and I think we should give every indication that we are quite prepared to do that.”

Gallucci also advises against references to a regime change in North Korea, or an opportunity to change the society fundamentally because North Koreans resent that. But he says the United States should find the right moment to convey to the new government in Pyongyang that it will not be permitted to transfer sensitive nuclear weapons technology and material to other countries or groups.