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North Koreans Arrive in Seoul For Talks With South Korea

  • Kurt Achin

A delegation of high-ranking North Korean officials is in the South Korean capital for talks aimed at improving cooperation between the two countries. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul that Pyongyang's failure to meet a deadline for halting some of its nuclear-weapons production has given authorities in Seoul second thoughts about sending aid to the North.

South Korea's decision to postpone promised aid shipments to the impoverished North is likely to top the agenda at this week's meeting in Seoul.

South Korean officials say they will not send the promised rice and other supplies until Pyongyang acts on the promise it made in February to dismantle its nuclear-weapons program.

North Korea is more than a month and a half overdue on an April deadline to start dismantling its nuclear facilities.

Pyongyang says it will not start to do so until it takes possession of $25 million of its funds from a bank in Macau. There have been technical delays in transferring the money.

Professor Ryoo Kihl-jae, dean of Seoul's Kyungnam University Graduate School of North Korean Studies, says South Korea is not likely to give in to Pyongyang's requests for aid.

Ryoo says the political atmosphere in South Korea will not allow officials to provide the aid unless the North takes the steps it promised in February. Ryoo says the issue has also become a matter of public opinion in the South.

Many South Koreans, including leading opposition politicians, complain that Seoul has gotten little in return for its aid and economic development projects in North Korea during the past several years. Pyongyang's first nuclear weapons test last October only strengthened that view.

But after Pyongyang promised to end its nuclear programs, South Korean officials began to push forward on economic development projects, including the first test of a railway line between the two countries earlier this month.

At the talks, South Korean officials are likely to ask for regular train runs, which are considered an easy way to ship aid and goods across the border. Pyongyang has not committed to any further train crossings.

The two Koreas never formally ended the war they fought from 1950 to 1953, after North Korea's invasion of the South.

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