Koreas to cooperate regardless of nuclear status

By RIA Novosti

Tokyo : South Korea has confirmed that it will develop bilateral relations with North Korea, regardless of how Pyongyang honours its denuclearisation commitments following six-nation talks in February, the unification minister said Friday.

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“I believe we cannot give up on South-North relations under any circumstances and that we must never stop trying to find alternative solutions” to any difficulties, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted Lee Jae-joung as saying.

Bilateral relations between the two Koreas were disrupted after Pyongyang conducted missile tests on July 5, 2006. Dialogue was resumed when North Korea agreed to stop its nuclear reactor and give IAEA inspectors access to the country in a six-party agreement on February 13.

However, the communist nation has insisted that it will not start denuclearisation until its funds frozen at Banco Delta Asia in Macao are released.

Washington had the account blocked in September 2005 after accusing Pyongyang of money laundering and counterfeiting US dollars, but it backed down on its decision earlier this year in an attempt to break the deadlock in the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

The six-party talks, held intermittently since 2003, involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, the US and Russia.

Seoul made it clear that it will be ready to cooperate with North Korea, and will supply 400,000 tonnes of rice to North Korea late in May.

South Korea also said it will boost economic cooperation and test two cross border railways with North Korea for the first time since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, the agency said.

The divided Koreas are to hold high-level military talks next week to discuss security guarantees for the temporary opening of the heavily-fortified inter-Korean border for the tests scheduled for May 17.