N. Korea rolls out red carpet for festival

NOISY PROTEST: Korean War veterans with national flags shouting a slogan during an anti-North Korea rally in Seoulyesterday. — APpic

SEOUL: Communist North Korea rolled out the red carpet for South Korea dignitaries yesterday but kept its nuclear weapons ambitions under wraps at a Pyongyang festival marking a 2000 inter-Korean summit. 

The celebrations remained free of any boasts about nuclear weapons as some 400 South Koreans, including 40 government officials, took part in the four-day festival in the North Korean capital. 

The first and only inter-Korean summit paved the way for steadily improving ties between North and South but relief has given way to renewed tension over North Korea's nuclear weapons drive and the lengthy stalemate in six-party talks. 

South Korean officials, sensitive to critics who say Seoul's engagement amounts to appeasement, said that their delegation chief, Chung Dong-young, the minister of unification, would raise the nuclear impasse in private talks with senior North Korean officials and urge them to return to six-party talks. 

Chung is expected to meet Kim Yong-nam, North Korea's No. 2 leader after Kim Jong-il, and other top North Korean officials. 

North Korea's official media used the festival to hit out at the United States and reach out to South Korea. 

Rodong Sinmun, the official daily of North Korea's ruling Korean Workers Party, said all Koreans should “valiantly turn out in the anti-US, anti-war struggle for the sake of the nation's dignity and destiny.” 

“Without shattering the US sinister scheme for a war of aggression, is it impossible to ensure peace of the nation, successful implementation of the joint declaration and co-prosperity of the nation.” – AFP  

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