Ideally, South Korea wants to settle all problems concerning the divided Korean peninsula through direct talks with its communist northern neighbor. Failing this, the next best solution would be a four-way conference including the United States and China, as proposed this week by President Reagan during the visit of Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang to the US. But the Seoul government is not even interested in a three-way conference involving the two Koreas and the US, a proposal reiterated by the North this week as well.
South Korean Unification Minister Sohn Jae Shik told reporters in Seoul that the Pyongyang proposal was not a ''sincere posture for dialogue.''
North Korea has refused to accept responsibility for the terrorist bombing in Rangoon last October that killed 17 South Koreans, including four senior members of the Seoul government, Sohn said.
''In order to create conditions for peace and provide the foundation for national reconciliation, the North Korean authorities must, first of all, officially or unofficially, admit, apologize for, and punish those responsible for the Burma incident,'' the minister said in a prepared statement.
The key points of the North Korean proposal are:
* The signing of a peace agreement between the two Koreas and the US and a non-aggression pact between North and South, accompanied by withdrawal of US troops (currently around 40,000) from South Korea.
* The convening of a ''whole nation conference'' of North and South Koreans to promote the ultimate objective of reunification.
South Korean ambassador to Tokyo, Choi Kyung Nok, told Japanese Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe the North Korean proposal was an attempt by Pyongyang to restore its image and end its international isolation following the Rangoon bombing.
The Japanese appear to have been favorably impressed by the fact that North Korea for the first time has indicated its readiness to deal directly with the government in Seoul. Previously the North has insisted on dealing only with the US and not the ''illegitimate puppet regime'' in the South. It sought to talk only with ''friendly personnel'' in South Korea. Now its proposal refers directly to Seoul ''authorities.''
But why was China, North Korea's main supporter in the Korean war, excluded from the Pyongyang peace initiative? According to a South Korean spokesman here: ''(The North Koreans) would want to be the main partner in any talks. Of course, they have to pay courtesy to the Chinese, but if China was involved in the talks , the North Koreans would feel somehow subjugated.''
Some Japanese analysts, however, believe China orchestrated the entire North Korean move, but did not want to be initially involved in it officially. There is also some feeling that this was also done to allow President Reagan to make a ''grand gesture'' towards China during Zhao Ziyang's Washington visit.