North/South Korea talks collapse
Row over make-up of delegations dashes hopes of an easing of tensions
A North Korean soldier stands on the river bank in Sinuiju, North Korea, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong. A much-anticipated meeting between North Korea and South Korea, which had been set for yesterday, collapsed before it even began. Photograph: AP
A minor disagreement over diplomatic status has prompted the collapse of planned high-level talks between South and North Korea, dashing hopes of an early easing of tensions on the Korean peninsula.
The minister-level talks were scheduled to be held yesterday, after earlier talks about talks laid the groundwork. North Korea’s offer to hold them at all was a surprise after weeks of threats to attack the South and the US in March and April. The tortuous to-and-fro about the talks illustrates just how difficult it is going to be to bring about real progress on bringing the two sides on the Korean peninsula closer together.
Kim Hyung-suk, a spokesman for the South’s unification ministry, said North Korea had told South Korea that the South’s choice for its chief delegate for the talks, the deputy unification minister, was inappropriate, describing the choice as a “grave provocation”.
Meanwhile, South Korea believed the North was not serious about the talks because instead of sending a senior figure from the ruling party, it said it would send a bureaucrat to lead the delegation. The spokesman said the North’s decision on its delegate was “abnormal”.