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South Korea, experts warn against raised hopes for inter-Korean talks

Updated: 2014-01-03 PM 9:52:46 (KST)
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North Korea's agency in charge of inter-Korean relations has pledged to open up a new phase towards the reunification of the two Koreas in 2014.
In an interview posted on the North's propaganda website Uriminzokkiri on Thursday, officials from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland called for pragmatic efforts to improve inter-Korean ties.
This comes a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a conciliatory message to the South through his New Year's address.
On the same day, President Park Geun-hye said she will make greater efforts in 2014 to realize peace on the Korean peninsula. during a phone conversation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Against this backdrop, hopes are rising the two Koreas could re-launch stalled talks soon.
Some say Pyongyang will likely propose talks on family reunions for those separated since the Korean War, sometime around Lunar New Year at the end of January.

But many experts are warning against being too optimistic.
They say Pyongyang's conciliatory message is likely part of a carefully calculated move to get leeway for further provocations if needed as well as to calm any internal instability.
Seoul's Unification Ministry is also refusing to read too much into the messages.
In a statement released Friday, the ministry said it remains skeptical, as Pyongyang forged ahead with a nuclear test and other provocations in 2013 after pledging to take a path of reconciliation in its New Year's address last year.

"We can't help but have doubts about the sincerity of North Korea's News Year's address."

The ministry reiterated it was North Korea that worsened inter-Korean ties.
The statement also urged Pyongyang to first take sincere steps, including towards denuclearization, before discussing improvement of ties between the two Koreas.
Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters there has been mixed analysis on the recent cordial message from Pyongyang, but the ministry believes North Korea has not shown it has changed its previous stance.
South Korean government officials say, however, that they have not completely ruled out the possibility of inter-Korean dialogue sometime in the near future.
Han Da-eun, Arirang News.

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