SKorea says talks with North to go ahead

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North and South Korea will hold talks this week on developing their joint industrial complex in the North despite Pyongyang’s latest threat to break off all dialogue and negotiations, an official said Monday.

The two Koreas will open two days of talks in the North’s border city of Kaesong on Tuesday to discuss their recent joint tour of foreign industrial parks, Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said.

She said the North informed the South Korea of its decision earlier in the day.

The North’s move came three days after it threatened to break off dialogue with South Korea and initiate a sacred “retaliatory battle” amid tensions between the two sides. The North was angry over South Korea’s reported contingency plan to cope with any unrest in the communist country.

The complex, which combines South Korean capital and technology with cheap North Korean labor, is the most prominent symbol of inter-Korean cooperation. About 110 South Korean factories employ some 40,000 North Korean workers there.

Also Monday, the North’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement renewing the country’s demand for the lifting of sanctions before it will return to stalled talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs.

The U.N. Security Council slapped on tough new sanctions last June, strengthening an arms embargo and authorizing ship searches on the high seas, after North Korea carried out a long-range missile launch and its second underground nuclear test.

The North’s Foreign Ministry issued a similar call for the lifting of sanctions last week.

The impoverished country has been reaching out to its rival in recent weeks in what could be an attempt to wrest economic aid at a time when the North is under the U.N. sanctions. But it has also issued threats.

Last week, the North proposed holding talks with South Korea on restarting joint tour programs stalled over the shooting death of a southern tourist and Pyongyang’s anger over Seoul’s hard-line policies.

The South has yet to respond to the North’s offer to hold two days of working-level talks in the North beginning Jan. 26.

Relations between the Koreas turned sour after a pro-U.S., conservative government was inaugurated in Seoul in early 2008 with a tough policy on the North. Pyongyang responded by suspending reconciliation talks and joint projects.