Inter-Korean talks fail to agree on higher-level meeting

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

SEOUL - Talks between South and North Korean military officers Wednesday concluded without an agreement to progress to a high-level military meeting, while Seoul said it agreed in principle to resume a dialogue on humanitarian issues.

The colonel-level talks were the first since the North’s shelling of a South Korean island in November, and had aimed to establish an agenda and process for talks between generals or defence ministers.

But the talks in the North Korean border village of Panmunjom “failed to narrow differences over the agenda for a high-level meeting,” Kim Min Seok, spokesman for the South’s Defence Ministry, was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency.

The meeting ended late Wednesday when the North’s representatives “unilaterally walked out,” Kim said. No date for further talks was agreed.

Earlier Wednesday, South Korea had said it agreed in principle for the neighbours’ Red Cross organisations to resume their dialogue on humanitarian issues, including the reunion of families divided by the split peninsula.

But the Red Cross talks would depend on “the inter-Korean situation … after high-level military talks,” Lee Jong Joo, Unification Ministry spokeswoman, was quoted as saying by Yonhap.

Seoul had refused previous North Korean offers of talks, saying Pyongyang was not serious and demanding the Stalinist state take responsibility for November’s attack on Yeonpyeong island and the sinking of a South Korean warship in March. Those two incidents killed 50 South Koreans.

Seoul then agreed to discuss potential solutions to the military problems existing between the two neighbours, which are still technically at war after a ceasefire and not a peace treaty ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

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