North blames Blue House for failed Incheon talks

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North blames Blue House for failed Incheon talks

North Korea yesterday blasted South Korea for failed talks on its participation in the upcoming Incheon Asian Games, accusing the Seoul delegation team of being “confrontational” during Thursday’s negotiations.

It also threatened to not send athletes and cheerleaders to the sporting event.

Through the state-run Korean Central News Agency, the North claimed South Korea “flip-flopped” on its position under what it said was a directive by the Blue House, showing a different attitude in the afternoon from the morning session and becoming “totally irrational.”

“After receiving the directive [from the Blue House], the Southern side delayed the afternoon session for two hours and 15 minutes and flip-flopped on what they said during the first meeting,” said the KCNA yesterday.

North Korea said the South took issue with the number of athletes and cheerleaders it proposed to send during the first session, 350 of each, and “even the size of North Korea’s flag” to be displayed during the game.

It also expressed frustration at Seoul’s stance that it would adhere to so-called international standards in accommodating North Korean players and cheerleaders.

“The working-level talks ended in vain because of the South’s challenging attitude and without setting a date for the next talk,” said the North, which also threatened it could drop the plan to participate in the games. “We stated [during the talk] we could reconsider our participation if the South continues its confrontational behavior,” said the KCNA.

During the Wednesday talks, North Korea proposed to send 350 players and 350 cheerleaders to the coastal city of Incheon for the two-week Asian Games. North Korea proposed sending the athletes by a direct flight and the cheerleaders in vehicles by road. It proposed having its own cruise ship docked at Incheon to house the cheerleaders.

In response to the strongly worded criticism, the Unification Ministry expressed regret over the accusations and dismissed them as “unfounded.”

“We did not take issue with the number of athletes but asked them in detail about their plan so we could prepare [in advance],” said a Unification Ministry official on the condition of anonymity.

The official added Seoul told the North during the talk that it would follow international standards in providing accommodation for the North Koreans but the two sides could hold further talks to meet each other’s needs before the games.

On whether more talks will be held, the official said the government will monitor the situation.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]





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