Relations have stalled since Seoul's acceptance of 450 defectors from Pyongyang Seoul has made conciliatory overtures to Pyongyang after it expressed anger at the recent decision by South Korea to accept hundreds of North Korean refugees. Inter-Korean relations have stalled since Seoul airlifted more than 450 North Korean defectors from Vietnam last month, provoking accusations of terrorism and kidnapping from Pyongyang. The move compounded North Korea's fury at Seoul's refusal to allow a group of South Koreans to join an anniversary event commemorating the death of the former leader of North Korea, Kim Il-sung. After the mass defection, North Korea cancelled a series of inter-Korean exchanges. Analysts suggest Seoul is now trying to distance itself from the sensitive issue to defuse tension between the two governments. 'It is difficult for the government's diplomatic officials to limitlessly take responsibility for North Korean defectors who roam around China and enter neighbouring countries,' Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, was quoted by his spokesman as telling senior ministry officials. Seoul is keen to revitalise inter-Korean relations as the international community struggles to resolve the standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. Pyongyang has hinted it might not turn up for six-party talks over the nuclear issue, due by the end of next month. South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young has expressed regret over cooling ties, but his comments reignited criticism that Seoul was prioritising its engagement policy with North Korea over refugees' humanitarian needs. 'What we do on a humanitarian level is up to us. We are a sovereign state. What are we afraid of from North Korea?' said Lee Shin-wha of Korea University, who studies the North Korean refugee issue. 'In the spirit of brotherhood, we are becoming yes-men to North Korea.' Seoul's attempt to cater to North Korean sensitivities has also enraged conservative groups. 'Does the government really intend to abandon brethren who have fled the [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-il regime's misrule and despotism ... for the purpose of resuming the North-South dialogue Pyongyang suspended unilaterally,' said the conservative Chosun newspaper in an editorial. Meanwhile, in a precautionary move, South Korea's National Security Council issued a security alert over a threat from Pyongyang about retaliatory measures for Seoul accepting the mass defections. 'North Korea's state media has been saying the North will not stand by while South Korea receives defectors en masse,' said a National Security Council spokesman. 'So, we are asking South Koreans overseas to pay special attention to their safety.' Most South Koreans have shrugged off the latest Pyongyang threats. They have grown used to the blasts of anger from the communist country while some analysts argue Seoul's conciliatory approach is a price worth paying for improved North-South relations. 'The net result has been an increase in exchanges and a significant level of distrust in comparison to say, the pre-1998 period,' said Lim Wonhyuk of the Korea Development Institute.