South Korea Hopes To 'Absorb' North

South Korea is reportedly looking to promote unification with its northern neighbour, a move that has sparked a stinging response from Chinese state media.

The conservative-leaning newspaper Dong-a Ilbo reported that Seoul was ""devising measures to mobilise reunification costs and collaborate with neighbouring countries in preparing for reunification"".

A report on the prospects for unification is due to be presented to the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, today following comments from Mr Lee this month that ""the two Koreas will have to co-exist peacefully and, in the end, realise reunification"".

While both Koreas have unification of the peninsula as their stated aim, they have moved further apart this year, with the sinking in March of a South Korean ship blamed on Pyongyang, and the recent bombardment by the north of the island of Yeonpyeong.

Dong-a Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, reported yesterday that Seoul was ""changing its policy direction for reunification of the Korean Peninsula"", with the unification ministry preparing ""for righteous national reunification"".

South Korea, the newspaper said, ""must proactively pursue a policy that can help advance reunification"" based upon the south's ""absorption"" of its northern neighbour.

Another conservative daily, The Chosun Ilbo, quoted an unnamed government official yesterday as saying the government was looking to promote measures ""that can bring about changes among the North Korean people"".

Media in China, North Korea's main donor and diplomatic ally, reacted angrily, with the Global Times accusing Seoul of ""behaving like a bull in a china shop"" and stoking already high tensions.

The proposals, according to the Global Times, ""will hardly enhance ties between the two sides"", with South Korea ""adopting moves that go against its wider goals"".

In a speech this month, Mr Lee said