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Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 08:56 GMT 09:56 UK
North Korea moves to ease tensions
South Korean veterans burn an effigy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (AFP)
The naval clash has made the South's public furious
North Korea has indicated that it wants to reduce the escalating tension with South Korea following their deadly naval clash at the weekend.

Pyongyang said in a statement released on Thursday - the 30th anniversary of a landmark agreement with the South - that it would push for dialogue with its rival.

"The North and South of Korea should develop North-South relations into those of dialogue and co-operation, not confrontation and war," the statement said, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The two sides of the divided Korean peninsula have traded blame for starting the battle on Saturday, which left four South Koreans and 30 North Koreans dead.

Peace overtures

But for the first time on Thursday, North Korea adopted a more conciliatory tone towards the South.

"We will make all our efforts to smoothly promote dialogue and co-operation as both sides agreed under the banner of the 4 July joint statement and the 15 June joint declaration," said North Korea's Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland - a government agency in charge of relations with the South.

Smoke pours from a patrol ship after the battle
More than 30 sailors were killed in the battle

The 4 July joint statement was signed in 1972. In it, the two Koreas agreed to work toward peaceful reunification of their peninsula. A similar agreement was signed on 15 June 2000 after their leaders held a historic summit.

Thursday's statement did not mention the weekend naval battle, which was the worst maritime clash between the two sides for three years.

The 20-minute battle took place on the border unilaterally imposed by the United Nations after the Korean War ended in 1953 and which the North does not recognise.

Fall-out

The clash has created enormous public anger in the South. Several thousand South Korean army veterans and their supporters launched a public protest on Thursday, burning a picture of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il before marching through Seoul.

But President Kim Dae-jung has said his "sunshine policy" of improving ties with the North may be stalled but will not be scrapped.

Halting shipments of South Korea's rice surplus to the North is being considered, as is a delay to a deal to install a mobile phone network in the isolationist state.

The US, for its part, has said that the State Department will no longer be sending a special envoy to North Korea in July to resume bilateral talks.

However a diplomatic source told Reuters news agency on Thursday that North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun is expected to attend the Asean regional forum in July, in which case he may meet his counterparts from the US, South Korea and Japan.


Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

03 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
02 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
02 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
20 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
07 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
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