North’s delegates storm out of talks

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North’s delegates storm out of talks

The second day of working-level military talks between North and South Korea ended abruptly yesterday when the North Korean delegation stormed out of the meeting 12 minutes after the afternoon session began.

“The North Korean delegation left, crossing over the military demarcation line at 2:50 in the afternoon today, and a schedule for another meeting could not be set,” said Kim Min-seok, Ministry of National Defense spokesman, yesterday.

Yesterday’s talks started at 10 a.m., and after a recess at 10:50 a.m., the delegations met again at 2:20 p.m. The North Koreans walked out 12 minutes later. The two sides were unable to come to any agreement on issues they had agreed to discuss. “For now, the talks are ruptured,” said Kim.

A Defense Ministry official said the North’s delegation returned over the border during the lunch break, and then decided to end things shortly after the afternoon round commenced. The team left the meeting room vehemently denying involvement in last year’s sinking of the South Korean corvette, the Cheonan, the official added.

According to another South Korean government source, the North’s delegation refused to take any responsible action for the Cheonan sinking and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, which the South Korean government had specified would be needed for higher-level talks.

“We offered that Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island be discussed first, and then military tensions on the peninsula, which North Korea had requested,” the source said. “However, the North Korean delegation repeated their stance that they had nothing to do with the Cheonan sinking and that the attack on Yeonpyeong Island was out of self-defense.”

In the morning session, the North delegation criticized the South Korean media for portraying their country “in a wrong light.” They rejected reports that the North was desperate for high-level military talks.

The atmosphere of the afternoon meeting was tense, according to the source. When asked whether they had a change of heart on the issue of the attacks, a member of the North delegation replied with a stiff, “No.”

The South Korean government believes the talks were not the end of the road. “To open working talks again, negotiations will have to go back to the beginning through statements,” said the official, adding that the North is likely to send a statement soon. “It looks like the talks, although currently ruptured, will start again.”

By Christine Kim []
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