South Korea on Sunday accepted North Koreaâ€™s request for dialogue about the future of the Kaesong industrial complex, just inside North Korea. Seoul hopes to cool off tensions that have been rising steadily since North Koreaâ€™s launch of a long-range Taepodong-2 missile on April 5.
The two Koreas agreed to talk Tuesday only after more saber rattling by North Korea.
North Korea said South Korea would be considered to have issued a â€śdeclaration of warâ€ť if Seoul joined the US-backed Proliferation Security Initiative.
North Korea sees itself as a target of PSI, a program begun by the US in 2003 for monitoring and interdicting shipments of nuclear material. It currently includes about 15 core counties, and dozens of others participate on an ad hoc basis.
A North Korean military spokesman Saturday used harsh language about the dangers of PSI, saying the â€śgroup of traitorsâ€ť led by South Koreaâ€™s President Lee Myung Bak â€śshould never forgetâ€ť that Seoul is 30 miles south of the border with the North.
South Koreaâ€™s unification ministry called that implied threat â€ślamentable,â€ť but the government decided to put off joining PSI until after Tuesdayâ€™s meeting. Foreign ministry officials have said the government had already decided to join the PSI, but there were signs of second thoughts.
The ostensible reason for Tuesdayâ€™s talks is the future of the Kaesong industrial complex, where about 100 South Korean companies have factories employing some 40,000 North Koreans.
South Korea is demanding to see a South Korean worker whom North Korean authorities detained recently for bad-mouthing the communist system to a North Korean, believed to be a waitress in a snack bar.
Its not clear yet whether North Korea will use that case as a lever against Seoul's decision to join the PSI.
North Korea also made vague threats Sunday through the official party paper, Rodong Sinmun, saying that the country would â€śbolster its nuclear deterrent for self-defense,â€ť in response to the UN Security Council statement last week condemning the launch of the Taepodong-2 missile.