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Inter-Korean Talks Scuttled by Dispute About Delegation Chiefs

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South Korea says high-level talks with the North that were set to begin Wednesday in Seoul have been postponed indefinitely, due to a dispute about who would lead the respective delegations.

The South Korean unification ministry said Tuesday the North notified Seoul that it will not send a delegation to the planned talks because it objects to a South Korean vice minister heading the South's delegation.

Pyongyang apparently had wanted to negotiate with a more senior South Korean representative, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae.

South and North Korean officials held working-level talks Sunday and early Monday in the border village of Panmunjom to try to determine the seniority of the delegation chiefs for the Seoul meeting.

South Korea asked for the North's delegation to be led by senior official Kim Yang-Gon, director of the United Front Department of the ruling Worker's Party. Seoul said it did not get a positive response, prompting it to choose the lower-ranked vice minister as its delegation chief.

The proposed talks in the South Korean capital would have been the most significant between the two Koreas in years.



Seoul and Pyongyang unexpectedly agreed last week to hold the negotiations, following weeks of heightened tensions. The two sides agreed to discuss the resumption of two stalled joint commercial projects, as well as the reunion of separated Korean families.

Some analysts said it was unlikely the discussions would touch on Pyongyang's nuclear program. Pyongyang has insisted that it will not give up the program, while the United States says abandoning the program is crucial to restoring the North's ties with the international community.

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