Koreas reach anniversary far apart on nuclear issue

Koreas reach anniversary far apart on nuclear issue

Old divide remains fresh nearly 2 decades after breakthrough cooperation declaration by North and South

By Alex Jensen

SEOUL (AA) - Seoul and Pyongyang repeated their opposite positions on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions Wednesday, exactly 16 years after the first inter-Korean summit produced a joint declaration leading to a series of now defunct cooperation projects.

South Korea’s unification ministry blamed the North for the failure of the two sides to get past a separation that stretches back to World War II.

In line with the 2000 declaration, the Koreas had initiated joint tourism and business schemes – but the neighbors have become seemingly trapped in a pattern of flip-flopping between reconciliation and aggression, and Seoul has been determined recently to hold off talks until Pyongyang demonstrates a willingness to denuclearize.

This year alone, North Korea has defied multiple United Nations resolutions by conducting a string of attempted ballistic missile launches in the wake of a fourth ever nuclear test.

“The North's acts hurt the spirit of cross-border agreements. It should stop its threat of reckless provocations and abandon nuclear weapons for better ties between the two sides that can lead towards peaceful unification,” Yonhap news agency quoted a South Korean ministry spokesperson as saying Wednesday.

While Seoul placed its faith in strengthened U.N. sanctions, Pyongyang’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper insisted Wednesday that “South Korea should stop confrontational acts and accept our offer for dialogue which we believe will ease military tension.”

North Korea regularly defends its development of nuclear weapons on the basis that the United States poses a regional threat, with around 30,000 American military personnel permanently stationed in South Korea.

The authoritarian North may be presenting a united front, but there are some dissenting voices within Seoul’s National Assembly.

Leading figures from the South’s main liberal parties reflected the lost hopes of the past as they marked the anniversary.

“Even if the government joins the international moves to impose sanctions on North Korea, it also needs to make efforts to induce inter-Korean talks,” Kim Chong-in, head of the South's main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, was quoted as saying by local news agency Yonhap during a meeting near the border.

A co-chairman of the minor opposition People’s Party, Ahn Cheol-soo, also underlined that “no regime has been demolished solely from sanctions and pressure.”

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