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N. Korea Postpones Talks with South - 2002-08-22


North Korea has asked South Korea to postpone next week's planned economic talks by one day. The talks carry extra significance since Pyongyang has recently embarked on a series of tentative economic reforms.

North Korea says difficulties with its delegation's travel arrangements force it to delay economic cooperation talks with South Korea. The talks were slated to take place in Seoul next week Monday to Thursday.

The hardline communist state has frequently postponed or canceled meetings with other nations at short notice. It cancelled the last round of bilateral economic talks with South Korea, set for last May, after it accused South Korean Foreign Minister Choi Sung Hong of making reckless remarks against Pyongyang.

It also postponed by one-day, a summit meeting held in June 2000 between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

In the past, North Korea has postponed several rounds of inter-Korean ministerial talks. But three days of cabinet-level discussions between the two rivals went ahead as planned earlier this month and another round has been set for mid-October.

Political analysts say it is not clear why North Korea often suddenly changes meeting schedules. It appears, however, that next week's meeting will take place, even if it occurs later than scheduled.

In the past few months, Pyongyang has embarked on a number of policy changes to improve its impoverished economy. It has raised wages and prices, and has also devalued its currency against the dollar.

To win support and aid as it undergoes a slow shift away from a command economy, Pyongyang has recently reached out to South Korea, Japan and the United States. This comes after months of self-imposed isolation.

The two Koreas remain technically at war since an armed truce, not a peace treaty, ended the Korean War in 1953.

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