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Inter-Korean Talks in Kaesong Delayed over Dispute

Posted April. 22, 2009 06:56,   


An inter-Korean meeting was delayed yesterday after South and North Korea disagreed over the format and venue of the talks.

Delegations from the two Koreas failed to hold their first government-level meeting since the inauguration of South Korea’s Lee Myung-bak administration by 6 p.m. yesterday.

The Unification Ministry in Seoul said the two sides failed to agree on practical matters such as the venue of the meeting at two preliminary sessions.

The South’s delegation went to Kaesong, the site of an inter-Korean business complex, after deciding on five requests. The five include a stop to Pyongyang’s verbal attacks on President Lee.

A Seoul official said, “Before the delegation’s visit to North Korea, the government decided to express its regret over the North’s provocative statement that South Korea mustn’t forget that Seoul is only 50 kilometers away from the Military Demarcation Line. It will also urge the North to stop defaming President Lee.”

Seoul also planned to urge the release of a Hyundai Asan employee who has been detained for 23 days in the North. The remaining requests were on the North’s support for the stable growth of the Kaesong complex and not to ruin inter-Korean relations.

If Pyongyang protests Seoul’s full-fledged participation in the U.S-led Proliferation Security Initiative, Seoul will say the initiative has nothing to do with the complex, a South Korean official said. “This is an international issue not related to North Korea,” he added.

Pyongyang also declined to inform Seoul who will attend the meeting and the agenda items. The North insisted holding the meeting at a venue outside of the industrial complex.

In response, Seoul said it would agree to the venue only if Pyongyang allows the South Korean delegation to meet the detained Hyundai Asan employee. “It is bad form to decline not to let the other party know who will participate in the meeting,” a Seoul official said.

Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said in Seoul, “Since influential people from the two sides met at the preliminary sessions, our demands have been delivered to Pyongyang. North Korea’s response to our demands at the preliminary sessions will determine if the South Korean delegation will stay in the complex for a day.”