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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Seoul 'Ready to Help Pyongyang'

SEOUL -- President Kim Young-sam returned home Wednesday from a week-long visit to Japan and China, saying he was confident that the tensions on the peninsula could be defused without war.


"I confirmed to Chinese leaders that South Korea has never had any intention to absorb the North or isolate it," Kim said before leaving Beijing. "Rather, I told them we were ready to help the North."


But Kim's new-found conciliation contrasted with an increasing belligerence in Pyongyang, where the official news agency reiterated the determination of the North Korean people to defend their country.


"The entire people effected a great upswing in socialist construction with a rifle in one hand and a sickle or a hammer in the other," said the Korean Central News Agency monitored in Tokyo.


"This is the strength of singlehearted unity mightier than thousands of nuclear bombs."


On his arrival in Seoul, Kim said the South would cooperate with the United States, Japan, China and Russia to find a peaceful solution to the impasse over inspection of Pyongyang's nuclear facilities.


Seoul, Washington and Tokyo fear Pyongyang is building a nuclear bomb. The North denies it.


Kim said Chinese President Jiang Zemin had supported the idea of holding talks between top leaders of North and South Korea to resolve the nuclear and other problems.


The South Korean leader said he and Jiang had agreed on the need for peace and stability on the peninsula.


Kim has taken a conciliatory line on the North since he held talks with Jiang and other Chinese leaders, who have repeatedly stressed that consultation is the only way to solve the crisis.


In contrast to his warnings only days ago that South Korea's patience might be running out, Kim told a news conference in China on Tuesday he would persist in efforts "to resolve this issue through dialogue and persuasion"


China, one of Pyongyang's few remaining allies and a permanent, veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, says pressuring Pyongyang to force it to open nuclear sites to inspection would be counterproductive.


Tensions grew rapidly last week as the increasingly defiant North repeatedly warned that international efforts to force UN inspection of its nuclear sites could lead to war.


Officials in Seoul said Kim was expected to decide soon whether to hold this year's Team Spirit military exercises with Washington, which had been suspended to tempt Pyongyang to talk.


Washington has already said it is sending antimissile Patriot missiles to boost South Korean defenses.


The North says it will quit the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty aimed at curbing the spread of atomic bombs if Team Spirit is staged, but preparations for the exercises have been resumed since the collapse of talks between the two Koreas.