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Pyongyang, Seoul Fail to Agree on Family Reunions

Pyongyang and Seoul ended their meetings Wednesday without any agreements for more ministerial talks or for a new round of reunions of divided Korean families. North Korean state radio blames South Korea for the failed meeting.

Political analysts in Seoul say the failed talks between North and South Korea dealt a blow to the families that had hoped to take part in the next reunion.

Officials from the South Korean Red Cross say most of the 100 South Koreans who were to take part in the reunion are over 80 years old. Their families have been separated for more than five decades, since the Korean Peninsula was divided, and the two sides fought a war.

Paik Hak-soon is a research fellow at South Korea's independent Sejong Institute. "I think they [the families] must have been absolutely disappointed, almost to the extent that they will not consider participating in family reunions next time. This is my guess, but the disappointment level and extent was that great, I think," Paik said.

South Korean journalists covering the talks at the North's Diamond Mountain Resort say the two sides could not agree on when and where to hold their next meeting on economic issues.

Pyongyang reportedly said it could not stick with an early plan to meet in Seoul because of the security alert South Korea imposed after the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States. Pyongyang says the alert is directed against North Korea, but Seoul rejects that charge.

Mr. Paik, the political analyst, says the breakdown could pose problems for South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. The president has pursued a so-called sunshine policy of engagement with the communist North. "The North Korean leadership has disappointed the South Korean populace many times. This does not mean the failure of the sunshine policy itself, but the sunshine policy may have added difficulties in getting support from the public," Paik said.

In North Korea, the state media accuses Seoul of pursuing a confrontational policy with Pyongyang. It says the South has abandoned the spirit of the joint declaration signed at the two nations' reconciliation summit last year. The two sides remain technically at war, since the conflict they fought from 1950 to 1953 ended without a peace treaty.