North Korea agrees to talks, but prepares new missile tests (Lead)

October 13th, 2009 - 10:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Seoul, Oct 13 (DPA) North Korea Tuesday agreed to meet South Korea this week for talks, but was at the same time preparing new missile tests, South Korean media reports said.
The two Koreas are to discuss further reunions of families separated by the inter-Korean border and flood prevention on border rivers, the unification ministry in Seoul said.

Pyongyang’s agreement to the South Korean proposals came despite North Korea’s test-firing of five short-range missiles Monday on its east coast. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Pyongyang was preparing more tests on its western coast.

Pyongyang wants to hold the meetings on both issues at the joint industrial park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

The first reunions in two years of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War took place two weeks ago, and South Korea’s Red Cross sent a letter Monday to its counterpart in the North proposing a meeting Friday on organising more reunions.

Seoul also proposed holding discussions Wednesday on preventing flooding on the Imjin river after a discharge from a North Korean dam in September swept away and killed six South Korean campers on the river.

North Korea agreed to the proposed dates, the unification ministry said.

The talks were due to be held after rising tensions between the two neighbours in the first half of this year following North Korea’s second nuclear test, a series of missile launches and threats against the South.

Relations began to improve in August as the Stalinist North again approached its neighbour.

Defence ministry officials in Seoul told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency that Pyongyang’s latest provocations would not affect this week’s discussions.

The foreign ministry, however, regards the tests-firings a violation of UN Security Council resolutions 1695, 1718 and 1874, which ban North Korea from all ballistic-missile-related activities, ministry spokesman Moon Tae Young said.

“We believe that the type of missiles fired on Monday are similar to those that the North has launched on multiple occasions in the past,” a defence ministry spokesman said.

Officials believe the launches of the missiles, improved versions of the KN-02 missile with an extended range of 130 to 160 km, are part of military manoeuvres with the aim of improving the missiles’ technology.

The military of the communist state test-fired several missiles, among them long-range missiles, in July, increasing tension on the Korean peninsula.

After pulling out of international talks on ending its nuclear weapons programme, North Korea recently indicated willingness to re-engage in the six-party process, which also involves South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the US.

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