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S. Korea urges North to accept ‘grand bargain’
Seoul, Jan 31 (Agencies):
Published on 1 Feb. 2010 12:06 AM IST
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President Lee Myung-bak urged North Korea Saturday to accept his “grand bargain” proposal to end the long-standing impasse with its nuclear weapons program in return for political and economic incentives. Lee says that “the day draws near when North Korea should answer whether or not it will drop its nuclear program.” In a separate interview with British public broadcaster the BBC, Lee expressed his intent to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il this year to discuss the nuclear deadlock and peace on the Korean Peninsula. Last year, Lee proposed the grand bargain initiative aimed at guaranteeing North Korea’s security and economic aid from the five countries participating in the six-party denuclearization talks in exchange for the communist state’s ending of its nuclear program. The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia. “Five of the member countries of the six-way talks understand the grand bargain. If North Korea has the intention to drop its nuclear program, it may have interest in the proposal,” Lee said during an interview with U.S.-based cable news channel CNN before leaving Switzerland late Friday for Seoul. “The members will discuss the proposal with North Korea if the country returns to the talks.” Lee’s overtures came after North Korea fired artillery shells over several days into waters near the inter-Korean sea border in the West Sea last week. The President said the North’s actions might be an attempt to press for a peace treaty with the United States as well as resume talks with the South. Pyongyang has recently been seeking to hold talks to replace the Armistice Agreement on the peninsula with a peace treaty in the face of growing pressure to rejoin the six-party talks, which it boycotted over international sanctions imposed after its missile and nuclear tests last spring. As for the economic outlook for 2010, Lee said during the CNN interview that the South Korea’s economy is expected to grow an estimated 5 percent and the global economy is projected to expand more than 3.5 percent. Asked whether the economic growth rate of 5 percent could lower South Korea’s jobless rate, Lee said the rate will be able to catch up with domestic demands for jobs, but forecast that it won’t be sufficient to create enough new jobs. The nation’s jobless rate stood at 3.5 percent in December, up from 3.3 percent a month earlier. The figure marked the second consecutive rise after falling to an 11-month low of 3.2 percent in October. In an effort to create jobs, efforts should be made to enhance the service industry which lags behind advanced countries, he said. Koreas to resume talks after border artillery fire South and North Korea will resume talks to discuss revitalising a Seoul-funded joint industrial estate despite tension over days of a border artillery fire, officials here said Sunday. They will meet in the Kaesong estate, just north of the heavily fortified border, on Monday for a follow-up to talks that ended in failure on January 21, the South’s unification ministry said. The North at the weekend informed the South of its participation in the talks, approving a plan by southern delegates to cross the border into Kaesong, it said. Previous talks broke down as Pyongyang insisted on discussing a sharp pay increase for 42,000 North Koreans working for 110 South Korea-funded plants in Kaesong, which Seoul still refuses to discuss. The South instead demanded that talks should focus on easier cross-border access to Kaesong and housing for northern workers there. The talks follow the communist North’s live fire which sent hundreds of shells near the disputed sea border in the Yellow Sea from Wednesday to Friday. No one was hurt but the drill prompted the South to fire warning shots in response and further raised tension between the two neighbours which remain technically at war since the 1950-1953 conflict. The sea border, drawn at the end of the war but never recognised by the North, has been a source of tensions between the two sides which had bloody naval clashes in November and in 1999 and 2002. The North has stopped artillery fire but the South closely monitors the communist neighbour which already declared two “no-sail” zones that straddle the disputed sea border, effective until March 29. On the eve of the talks in Kaesong, Seoul had little expectations for the upcoming round to produce any tangible results.

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