Rival parties voice caution over N.K. dialogue offer

SEOUL, June 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's rival political parties expressed caution Monday over North Korea's recent proposal for high-level talks with the United States, saying the South should not be left out of the picture.

The North's proposal came Sunday, five days after its planned high-level talks with Seoul broke down due to a dispute over the rank of the chief delegate from each side.

Pyongyang proposed the two sides discuss security and nuclear issues. However, Washington urged the communist nation to first live up to its denuclearization commitments.

"(North Korea's) main aim is to come out of international isolation by disrupting cooperation between South Korea, the U.S. and China," Rep. Shim Yoon-joe of the ruling Saenuri Party said in a local radio interview.

Accepting North Korea's offer would put the U.S. in a difficult situation with its ally, South Korea, while rejecting it would give Pyongyang an excuse to appeal to Beijing for help, he said.

"There's a need to stay alert about North Korea skipping talks with the South and going straight to the U.S., or trying to hold some other form of talks that excludes the South," said the former deputy foreign minister.

Seoul should keep reminding Washington and Beijing that talks excluding the South will not bring lasting peace and security to the Korean Peninsula, he added.

The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) also voiced concern about Seoul being sidelined.

"Although North Korea-U.S. talks are necessary, South-North talks should come first," Rep. Jun Byung-hun, the DP floor leader, said at a Supreme Council meeting.

"To demonstrate its sincerity about talks, I strongly urge North Korea to come forward to resume talks with the South."

The floor leader also called on the South Korean government to return to the process for holding talks with the North, saying dialogue is the only way to mend inter-Korean ties.

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