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NKorea rebuffs SKorean leader's appeal

N Korea rejects an appeal by South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak for better relations as "clumsy wordplay," further heightening tensions following the killing of a S Korean tourist.

world Updated: Jul 13, 2008 12:09 IST

North Korea on Sunday rejected an appeal by South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak for better relations as "clumsy wordplay," further heightening tensions following the killing of a South Korean tourist.

The South's new leader Lee on Friday made a public offer of talks with Pyongyang in a speech delivered to parliament just hours after he learned that a North Korean soldier had shot and killed the 53-year-old holidaymaker.

But the North firmly rejected the olive branch Sunday with a commentary in state newspaper Rodong Sinmun saying Lee's offer "does not deserve even the slightest notice."

"With deceptive words Lee Myung-Bak is trying to avoid responsibility for straining relations between North and South Korea and to ride out a (domestic political) crisis... but that's a miscalculation," it said.

The paper called Lee a "traitor" and described his offer as "clumsy wordplay" aimed at avoiding responsibility for strained inter-Korean relations.

Ties between the neighbours worsened after Lee took office in February promising a tougher line on Pyongyang. The North has since suspended government-to-government dialogue.

Lee last weekend restated his willingness to meet the North's leader Kim Jong-Il "as many times as I can" to improve relations.

But the North said it was "preposterous" for him to make such a suggestion when he had ignored "important declarations" at previous summits.

The North has also rebuffed Seoul's offers of food aid despite serious food shortages this year.

South Korea has condemned the killing of tourist Park Wang-Ja, urged the North to cooperate with an investigation and suspended tours to the scenic east coast resort, opened in 1998 as a symbol of reconciliation.