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S. Korea Rejects North's Latest Invite to Talks

SEOUL - North Korea on Friday proposed holding parliamentary talks with South Korea in its latest diplomatic overture toward Seoul after months of animosity.

South Korea quickly dismissed the idea, saying that the two sides were already discussing a preliminary meeting for high-level defense talks.

The Koreas have been in a standoff following the North's November shelling of a South Korean island and its alleged attack on a South Korean warship in March.

The North's Central Committee of the Democratic Front for the Reunification of Korea proposed that lawmakers from the rivals talk to overcome the "grave situation" on the divided peninsula. It did not elaborate on the plan. "Dialogue and negotiations are the only way for averting a war," the North said in a statement carried by its official Korean Central News Agency.

Meanwhile, as Kim Jong Il prepares his country for a leadership change to his youngest son Kim Jong Un. His eldest son has said in an interview that his father opposed continuing the family dynasty into a third generation but ended up naming his youngest son as heir to keep the country stable.

Hereditary succession "does not fit with socialism, and my father was against it as well," the Tokyo Shimbun quoted Kim Jong Nam as saying in an interview in a southern Chinese city in mid-January. "My understanding is that (succession) was to stabilize the internal system. An unstable North Korea leads to instability in the region."

Kim Jong Nam is believed to have fallen out of favor after embarrassing the North Korean government in 2001 when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport, saying he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland. He favors newsboy caps and Ferragamo loafers, frequents five-star hotels and expensive restaurants and spends much of his time in mainland China or Macau - the center of Asian gambling.

North Korea's latest proposal for direct talks comes two days after South Korea proposed holding a preliminary meeting with North Korea on Feb. 11 to lay the groundwork for high-level defense talks.

South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung dismissed the North's proposal for parliamentary talks as "a routine offensive that lacks sincerity." South Korea has recently pressed North Korea to accept separate talks with Seoul to verify its commitment to abandoning its nuclear programs. The North has yet to respond to Seoul's demand.

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