North Korea called Wednesday for "unconditional and early" talks with rival South Korea to put an end to months of tensions. Seoul quickly dismissed the offer as insincere and said it's waiting for an apology for two deadly attacks blamed on Pyongyang.
It's rare for North Korea to issue such a statement addressed to South Korea and it came as the U.S. envoy on the North was in the region to discuss the standoff. Earlier in the day, Stephen Bosworth sought to calm fears of conflict on the peninsula.
Tensions between the two Koreas have been at their highest level in years since North Korea showered artillery on a South Korean-held island near their disputed maritime border in November, killing four South Koreans. The attack was the first on a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War, and occurred in waters not far from the spot where a torpedo sank a South Korean warship eight months early, killing 46 sailors.
That attack was also blamed on the North — and allegation the country vehemently denies.
But the North has made some conciliatory moves recently. On New Year's Day, the government issued a lengthy statement calling for warmer ties and the resumption of joint projects with South Korea. Pyongyang, eager for food and fuel assistance, has said it wants stalled international aid-for-nuclear-disarmament talks to restart. Washington and Seoul have said the North must first fulfil past nuclear disarmament commitments.
On Monday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak vowed to increase his country's defences but made clear the door was open for talks with Pyongyang and was willing to enhance economic co-operation between the rivals. On Wednesday, North Korean officials responded with their own call for negotiations.
"We are ready to meet anyone anytime and anywhere, letting bygones be bygones, if he or she is willing to go hands in hands with us," said a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency. It added that history has shown that such confrontations can only lead to an "armed clash and war."
South Korea's Unification Ministry immediately rebuffed the overtures late Wednesday.
"We don't consider it as a sincere offer of dialogue," ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said. North Korea first must apologize for the two attacks and take "sincere" steps toward nuclear disarmament, she said.
What she said.
North Korea has never been trustworthy. They want something. If the corrupt Kim dynasty wants to talk, it can dismantle its nuclear power stations, give up its nuclear ambitions and allow aid groups to feed the people the Kims never will. That sounds sincere.
Related: Japan and South Korea will boost military ties. Awesome. Why didn't they do that before?
Further- a letter in the National Post:
In the weeks before the New Year's Day suicide bombing of an Egyptian church, al-Qaeda-linked websites were carrying a how-to manual on “destroying the cross,” complete with videos on how to build a bomb and the locations of churches to target - including the one that was attacked.
They may have found a receptive audience in Alexandria, where increasingly radicalised Islamic hard-liners have been holding weekly anti-Christian demonstrations, filled with venomous slogans against the minority community.
The blast, which struck on Saturday as worshippers were leaving midnight Mass at the Mediterranean city's Saints Church, killed 21 people.
President Hosni Mubarak has accused foreign groups of being behind the attack, which has sparked a wave of angry protests by Christians in Egypt.
But on the ground, investigators are searching in a different direction - scrutinising homegrown hard-liners, known as Salafis, and the possibility they were inspired by al-Qaeda to carry out the attack.
Only two or three days before Saturday's bombing, police arrested several Salafis spreading fliers in Alexandria calling for violence against Christians, a security official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media.
According to authorities, the strong belief among investigators is that local extremists who knew the area and the nature of their target were behind the attack. The Egyptian weekly Al-Youm Al-Saba said police were examining photos of the Salafis' weekly protests for suspects linked to the bombing.
In the weeks before the attack, al-Qaeda militants on the Web spewing calls for “jihad,” or holy war, on Egypt's Christians laid out everything anybody would need to carry out a bombing.
One posting widely circulated on al-Qaeda-linked sites includes a so-called “Jihadi Encyclopedia for the Destruction of the Cross,” with a series of 10 videos describing how to build a bomb.
For the infantile-minded, this does have to do with Islam and they won't stop at Christians. If they don't like the people who will pick up the trash they won't, they will also go after the milquetoasts who pat them on the back during
Jew-Hatred Week Israeli Apartheid Week. You're next. Get some intestinal fortitude. Now. Intolerance can't be met by silence.