Seoul rejects North Korea’s talks offer as “propaganda”

South Korea has dismissed a North Korean call for unconditional talks to ease tensions, saying on Thursday the offer was “propaganda” it does not take seriously.

The North’s gesture on Wednesday came as the United States met Chinese and South Korean officials for talks about how to calm the Korean peninsula and persuade the North to stop its nuclear work.

U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth is in China on Thursday and will be in Japan for talks on Friday. Washington is pressing Beijing to do more to rein in its ally North Korea.

Seoul, which wants an apology after North Korea’s deadly shelling of a South Korean island off disputed waters in November, said Pyongyang’s call for talks was an empty gesture.

“North Korea previously issued statements like this early in the year … they are normally done as part of (a) propaganda campaign toward the South,” a Unification Ministry official said.

“We do not consider this is as a serious proposal for dialogue. It is not even in the correct and appropriate format.”

The artillery fire, and the March 2010 sinking of a South Korean ship blamed on the North despite its denials, have raised tension in Asia and increased the pressure to resume talks.