North Korea rejects South Korean family reunion proposal
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Thursday rejected a South Korean proposal to resume reunions of families that have been separated since the Korean War in the early 1950s.
The reunion program has been stalled amid tension between the rival Koreas since late 2010. The Koreas had agreed to resume the program last September but North Korea abruptly canceled the plan.
North Korea wants to link the reunions to a restart of a lucrative joint tourism project at a scenic North Korean mountain, according to South Korean officials.
South Korea offered this week to hold talks on Friday on resuming the reunions later this month, saying it could help improve strained ties. South Korean officials say they have no intention of linking the reunions to the tourism project.
North Korea responded Thursday that the talks could take place “at a good season” if the South is willing to discuss “the proposals of our side,” an apparent reference to the tourism project.
The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea also said the reunions could not occur this month because of springtime military drills planned by South Korea and the United States, saying the separated families could not have “reunions in peace amid gunfire,” according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
South Korea expressed its regret over the North Korean decision.
“The North must show its sincerity by actions rather than talking about improvement in South-North Korean relations only with words,” the Unification Ministry said in a statement.
Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for better ties with South Korea in his annual New Year’s Day message, but also warned of possible nuclear war.
Millions of families have been separated since the 1950-53 Korean War, which left the two Koreas divided by a tightly militarized border. The reunions are highly emotional because most participants are in their 70s or older and are eager to see their relatives before they die.
Tensions rose sharply last spring when North Korea issued a series of threats of nuclear strikes against Seoul and Washington.
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