Seoul rejects North Korea talks offer

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BEIJING. January 6. KAZINFORM South Korea dismissed on Thursday an offer from the North of talks to ease rising tensions as "propaganda." Kazinform refers to RIA Novosti.

An official at the Unification Ministry in Seoul said Pyongyang's proposal was not serious.

"North Korea previously issued statements like this early in the year... they are normally done as part of [a] propaganda campaign toward the South," the official was quoted as saying by the BBC.

"We do not consider this is as a serious proposal for dialogue. It is not even in the correct and appropriate format," he added.

On Wednesday, North Korea offered "unconditional" talks with the South to put a mutual end to provocation.

The North's official KCNA news agency said Pyongyang was offering "wide-ranging dialogue and negotiations" with Seoul, arguing that it was "the only way out from this serious situation."

China said on Thursday it would "support and welcome" any dialogue between North and South Korea.

"We support and welcome relevant parties to have contact and dialogue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters. "We hope relevant parties make joint efforts to resume the six-party talks at an early date."

Beijing is the host of the stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, inlovling both Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

China's comments came as Stephen Bosworth, U.S. top envoy on North Korea, met with Chinese officials in Beijing on Wednesday, following talks with South Korean officials in Seoul.

Tensions have been high since Pyongyang shelled the South's Yeonpyeong Island last November, killing four people.

The stalemate comes months after international investigators blamed Pyongyang for sinking a South Korean warship.

In December, the United States and South Korea held large-scale military drills in the area, which led the North to threaten "holy war" using its nuclear deterrent. Kazinform cites RIA Novosti. See www.en.rian.ru

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