North Korea threatened yesterday to reject South Korea's participation in future six-nation talks on the North's nuclear weapons development, if Seoul keeps supporting US demands that Pyongyang first dismantle the nuclear programs.
The North slammed South Korea as "a spokesman for the US" that is causing "grave provocation" by siding with Washington, according to the North's official KCNA news agency.
It quoted the North's Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland.
Washington and Seoul say North Korea must begin dismantling its nuclear programs in a complete, verifiably and irreversible manner before receiving economic or energy aid. Pyongyang wants aid extended, simultaneously with a nuclear freeze, as a first step toward dismantlement.
The KCNA dispatch warned South Korea against "dancing to the tune of outside forces."
"If the South Korean authorities want to take part in the negotiation as a member of the six-way talks in the future, too, and remain a partner of inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation, they should ... take the independent stand for achieving peace and reunification of the country," it said.
The threat came a day after the North's reclusive leader, Kim Jong-il, concluded a secretive visit to Beijing. Kim told Chinese leaders he's committed to ending the nuclear dispute through dialogue, and agreed to continue six-nation nuclear talks, China's official Xinhua News Agency said.
Meanwhile, South Korea's Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun said yesterday he sees a high possibility of progress at the next round of six-nation talks, which involve the US, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia.
All six have twice met to try persuading the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions, but have made little progress. They've agreed to meet again before July.
"I think that possibility of progress at next ... round of six-party talks is high," Jeong said at a seminar in Seoul. His ministry's public relations office confirmed the comments.
Jeong added that details of Kim's trip to the North's longtime ally, China, may come out within one or two days. Kim met President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and former president Jiang Zemin (江澤民), who remains head of the powerful commission running China's military. He also met Prime Minister Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), Vice President Zeng Qinghong (曾慶紅) and Wu Bangguo (吳邦國), the No. 2 leader of China's Communist Party.
Jeong rejected rosy forecasts for inter-Korean exchanges, which are based on the fact that South Koreans last week elected their first liberal-dominated parliament in four decades. He said critics of closer inter-Korean ties are still a strong force.