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Koreas' Talks Fizzle Over Nuclear Weapons, Aid

Talks between North and South Korea have faltered, with the two sides producing no substantial agreement despite talking since Tuesday. As VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul, the main sticking point is Seoul's refusal to send aid across the border until the North implements a nuclear disarmament agreement.

In a tersely written joint statement Friday, North and South Korea said they would continue to seek ways to promote cooperation and peace on the Korean peninsula.

However, after four days of ministerial meetings, the delegates failed to set a date for future talks. They also did not resolve a dispute over South Korean aid.

North Korea is nearly two months overdue on a deadline for shutting down its main nuclear facility, as it promised to do earlier this year. South Korea says it will not send aid, including 400,000 tons of rice, to the impoverished North, until Pyongyang fulfills its promise.

South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Koh Kyoung-bin said Friday that the South made its position clear during this week's talks.

He says South Korean delegates told the North that Pyongyang's implementation of the February agreement would be crucial in persuading South Korean taxpayers, whose money would fund the promised rice shipment.

North Korea blames a technical banking issue for its delays in implementing the nuclear agreement, saying it will take no action until $25 million of its money has been transferred out of a bank in Macau. No international bank has been willing to touch the money because the United States alleges it was linked to illegal North Korean activities, such as money laundering. U.S. officials say the problem will be resolved soon.

Relations between the two governments have been fitful over the past several years. Since 2000, South Korea has tried to encourage the North to engage more fully with the rest of the world and improve its economy. Seoul has spent billions of dollars in food aid and economic development projects in the North.

But Pyongyang often backs out of talks or other joint programs because of perceived slights or pressure from Seoul.

Public opinion in the South soured on the engagement policy in 2006 after North Korea tested a nuclear weapon, despite three years of disarmament talks with South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan.

In an apparent reference to the United States, North Korean delegates criticized the South several times this week for letting "outside powers" interfere with North-South cooperation.