South Korea, on Monday, proposed to resume talks with North Korea even as issues surrounding a massive cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November continue to roil relations between the United States, one of Seoul’s key allies, and the North. The FBI has accused the North of backing the hack at Sony Pictures over a controversial film.
In a letter sent to Pyongyang, Seoul's unification minister Ryoo Kihl-jae sought negotiations with North Korea, covering significant issues, including reunions for families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean war and possible cooperation on projects, Reuters reported, adding that the South expects the talks to take place in January. Pyongyang has accepted the letter but is yet to respond.
“I don't think we will have any particular agenda, but our position is to discuss everything that South and North have mutual interests in,” Ryoo said, during a news briefing.
According to Ryoo, South Korea will discuss its inter-Korean cooperation plans with the North, which will include a peace park at the demilitarized zone, a no-man's land that has divided the two Koreas for 50 years.
At the closing ceremony of the Asian Games, hosted by South Korea in October, a group of high-profile North Korean officials said that Pyongyang was interested in reopening dialogue with Seoul. However, both the countries could not follow up on the discussions as tensions between them escalated over the past few weeks.
Earlier this month, Korea Electric Power Corp., which is South Korea’s countrywide nuclear operator, was hacked, followed by the leak of some confidential documents, including the floor plans of some of South Korea’s 23 nuclear plants, blueprints of equipment and some private data of employees.
Last week, South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye announced that authorities enhanced cybersecurity measures at the country’s 23 nuclear plants. Park said that investigators were exploring the possibility that North Korea was involved in the hack. However, she did not officially name the North as a suspect.
Meanwhile, South Korea has joined hands with the U.S. and Japan to share intelligence to better deal with North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. The three countries signed a trilateral military pact amid growing threats from Pyongyang. The agreement, which went into effect Monday, allows Seoul and Tokyo to share military secrets on North Korea's nuclear and missile threats with the U.S. acting as an intermediary, Yonhap News reported.
“This will be effective in deterring provocation from North Korea, and we hope it will help the three nations respond swiftly to the North's nuclear and missile threats,” a South Korean defense ministry spokesman told Agence France-Presse last week.
The FBI recently blamed North Korea for aiding hackers to carry out an unprecedented cyberattack on the U.S.-based film studio arm of Japan's Sony Corp. The U.S. claimed that the hackers breached Sony Pictures’ computer systems in response to the studio’s planned release of “The Interview,” a comedy featuring an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Pyongyang subsequently accused Washington of being behind Internet outages in the North, which came days after an investigation by the FBI. North Korea also denied any involvement in the breaches at South Korea's state nuclear power operator.