Rival parties apart on N. Korea's peace gesture

SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's rival political parties voiced their differences Monday over North Korea's recent call for dialogue with neighboring nations.

Last Friday, a special envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing and delivered his country's willingness to rejoin the long-suspended six-party talks on ending its nuclear programs.

The move came only days after the North ended a series of short-range projectile launches into the sea in an apparent attempt to renew tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

"Although there has been a bid for dialogue within the international framework, it isn't yet certain whether the six-party talks will reopen," Rep. Hwang Woo-yea, the chief of the ruling Saenuri Party, said during a Supreme Council meeting.

"We must watch the development of the situation and prepare ourselves with caution as we persevere until North Korea's sincerity is confirmed."

Rep. Kim Han-gil, the chief of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), called on the government to respond immediately to the North's move.

"The government's role is to properly operate the foreign affairs and security channels and take a leading role in managing the situation in inter-Korean affairs and around the Korean Peninsula," he said at a DP Supreme Council meeting.

The off-and-on six-party talks, which began in 2003, have been suspended since the last session in late 2008. The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia, and aim to dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic and political aid.

Last month, Seoul proposed holding working-level talks with Pyongyang to discuss the issue of a now-suspended joint industrial complex in the North.

North Korea rejected the offer.

"It is the party's consistent view that the Kaesong Industrial Complex should be swiftly resumed separately from the North Korean nuclear issue," Hwang, the ruling party chief, said.

Kim, the opposition party chief, called on President Park Geun-hye to demonstrate her resolve to normalize the complex by allowing South Korean businessmen to return to the factory park.

The nine-year-old industrial park, a key outcome of the first-ever inter-Korean summit in 2000, ground to a halt early last month when North Korea withdrew all of its 53,000 workers from the complex in anger over new U.N. sanctions against its regime and U.S.-involved military drills in the South.

The project combines South Korean capital and technology with cheap North Korean labor to produce clothes, utensils, watches and other labor-intensive goods.

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