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South Korea wants North talks on attacks, nuke program

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea rebuffed a North proposal for talks to ease tensions but extended its own offer Monday to discuss last year’s two military attacks blamed on Pyongyang and North Korea’s nuclear program.

The South’s offer came after North Korea made its first formal offer to resume talks following an artillery attack in November. The attack on a front-line island killed four South Koreans and came eight months after a deadly sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on Pyongyang. The North denies involvement in the sinking that killed 46 sailors.

North Korea has pleaded for renewed talks through its state media since last week, but Monday was the first time the government officially called for talks with South Korea.

The North offered to hold working-level dialogue on Jan. 27 to prepare for higher-level government discussions and Red Cross talks on joint economic projects on Feb. 1, according to the North’s state media and South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

The North also said it would restore a cross-border Red Cross communication channel and allow South Korean officials back to an inter-Korean industrial complex in North Korea, both sides said.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry rebuffed the North’s latest offer as an attempt to win economic aid.

The ministry also called the North’s message a “typical tactic” designed to create a divide in South Korea. “North Korea has committed this kind of behavior dozens of times,” a ministry statement said.

The ministry, however, made a counterproposal for talks, calling for the North to take responsibility for last year’s two attacks and not to repeat similar provocations.

“We are proposing a South-North Korean government meeting” to confirm the North’s sincerity, the statement said.

The North hasn’t immediately reacted to the South’s counterproposal, according to the ministry.

The Korean peninsula is still technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

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