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North Korea Snubs Ministerial Talks - 2004-08-03


Cabinet-level talks between North and South Korea were due to begin Tuesday, but officials in Seoul say their counterparts from Pyongyang did not show.

South Korea's Unification Ministry says it deeply regrets North Korea's decision to boycott the talks, and hopes to resume discussions on inter-Korean ties at the earliest possible date.

The senior analyst at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, Kim Tae-woo, says this was probably an example of North Korea showing unhappiness over South Korean actions.

"I think that is an expression of North Korean resentment about the fact that the South Korea government took [in] some 400 North Korean defectors," he said.

North Korea angrily denounced Seoul's acceptance of those defectors, who flew to South Korea from Vietnam late last month, describing it as an act of "kidnapping and terrorism."

The communist state also expressed anger over Seoul's refusal to let pro-unification activists visit Pyongyang last month for ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the death of North Korean founding leader Kim Il-Sung.

The aborted talks, scheduled to run for four days, would have been the 15th round of inter-Korean ministerial meetings.

Mr. Kim notes that North Korea has canceled bilateral meetings in the past to express its displeasure with actions by the South, and he thinks Pyongyang's anger will be temporary.

"The overall stream of inter-Korean exchanges is not bad. So that's why this anger, this resentment, will be dissipated sooner or later," he said.

Meanwhile, South Korea and the United States held talks in Seoul on Monday concerning the long-running nuclear standoff with North Korea.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly and South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-Hyuck met to prepare for an upcoming fourth round of six-nation talks aimed at ending the dispute over North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.