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Now you'll see them, now you won't: North Korea scraps talks with South

Northern officials complained that Southern delegates ranked too low within the Southern government, and have abandoned talks.

A table at the Hilton Hotel in Seoul, where North and South Korean delegates held their first ever high-level meeting in the past.
A table at the Hilton Hotel in Seoul, where North and South Korean delegates held their first ever high-level meeting in the past.
Image: Ahn Young-joon/AP

NORTH KOREA’S GOVERNMENT has pulled out of talks with South Korea – the first of their kind in six years – in a disagreement about the status of the delegates attending the talks

Representatives from the two governments were due to meet tomorrow, to hold talks which outsiders had hoped could help to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula, have have been simmering for some months.

Yesterday the governments exchanged the names of the five delegates they were due to send to the talks, at the village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarised zone.

However, South Korea’s state news agency Yonhap now reports that the North has pulled out of the talks – reportedly because North Korea has objected to the status of the figures being sent by the South.

It cites South Korean officials as saying the North believed the southern negotiators were too low-level within the Southern administration.

“The North threatened to call off the meeting unless the South sends a minister-official as its chief delegate,” said Kim Hyung-suk, a spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

Yonhap said the South originally wanted to send its unification minister, Ryoo Kihl-jae, on the condition that the North send its counterpart, the head of the reunification division of the Worker’s Party.

The North then proposed to send a delegation led by a director from the Committee of the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, the arm of the North Korean government devoted to cross-border relations.

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As a result, the South sent its deputy unification minister Kim Nam-Shik, who is still a member of cabinet – but complained that North Korea’s leading delegate was of a status a level or two lower than its own.

The dispute reflects the ongoing difficulties in getting both sides to the negotiating table to discuss matters of common concern.

The talks had been due to discuss the reopening of the Kaesong industrial complex, which has been shut since a threatened war between the two countries in April, but were likely to touch upon the North’s nuclear programme which has been at the centre of the tensions.

Read: North and South Korea agree to ‘constructive’ high-level meeting

Photos: In Pics: Everyday life in North Korea’s capital Pyongyang

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Gavan Reilly

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