North, South Korea end high-level talks with no breakthroughs

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of -- Two days of high-level talks between North and South Korea ended Saturday with no breakthroughs, South Korean officials said, leaving mixed signals about reconciliation efforts the rivals have made since stepping away from a military standoff in August.

See Full Article

The meeting of vice-ministerial officials in the town of Kaesong was not expected to produce any substantial results, but the talks were still considered a sign that the rivals were working to keep alive an atmosphere of dialogue -- something they've often failed to do in the wake of conflict.

After the talks stretched into the evening on Saturday, as they had done on Friday, they ended without any statement from either side. The countries were also unable to fix a date for a further meeting among senior officials, raising the likelihood of their relations being set back, analysts said.

During the talks, South Korea demanded that the North commit to more reunions between aging family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War or allow them to communicate through letters, said Hwang Boogi, South Korea's vice minister of unification and head negotiator for the talks.

North Korea, however, maintained that it couldn't further discuss the separated families issue without the South agreeing to restart joint tours to the North's scenic Diamond Mountain resort. The South refused, causing the talks to end, Hwang said.

The Diamond Mountain tours were a valuable source of hard currency for the North before Seoul suspended them in 2008, following the shooting death of a South Korean tourist.

"Our government still maintains its basic stance to cultivate a normal relationship between the South and North, and continue dialogue with North Korea with an open mind," Hwang told reporters.

In their opening statements on Friday, South Korea said the North's nuclear weapons ambitions were an obstacle to better ties. North Korea, meanwhile, said the South should be more cautious when talking about the North's nuclear and human rights issues, Hwang said.

More than 19,700 Koreans have met at the temporary family reunions that have been held irregularly between the rivals since 2000, including nearly 1,000 at the latest meetings at Diamond Mountain in October. None of them has been given a chance to attend a second reunion because the Koreas bar their citizens from visiting each other and exchanging letters and phone calls without special permission.

South Korea has called for more participants and more regular reunions, as thousands of people who had been on the waiting list have already died and many others have entered their 80s and 90s, but the North has refused to oblige.

Analysts say North Korea fears that its citizens will become influenced by the much more affluent South, which could loosen the government's grip on power. The reunions are also considered a coveted North Korean bargaining chip in negotiations with South Korea.

Expectations for the talks on Friday and Saturday dropped last month when, in preparatory negotiations, the sides settled for a meeting at the vice-ministerial level. This likely ruled out meaningful discussions on key issues such as the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Still, any negotiations between the rivals, who are separated by the world's most heavily armed border, were considered an improvement upon the situation in August, when they threatened each other with war over land mine explosions that maimed two South Korean soldiers.

The standoff eased after marathon talks and an agreement on efforts to reduce animosity. Those included a resumption of talks between senior officials and the round of reunions for war-separated families that were held in October.

Analysts say quick improvements in ties are unlikely because the rivals remain far apart on major issues, including Pyongyang's nuclear weapons ambitions and the broad economic sanctions the South has imposed on the North since 2010, when Seoul blamed a North Korean torpedo for a warship sinking that killed 46 South Koreans.

"It seems that the negotiators thought it was meaningless for them to continue talking when there was such as large gap between their views," said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University in Seoul.

The Korean Peninsula remains technically at war, because the Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Ontario ticket claims $5M Lotto 649 jackpot

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - Saturday night's $5 million Lotto 649 draw was claimed by a ticket sold in Ontario. And the guaranteed $1 million prize went to a ticket holder in Quebec. The jackpot for the next draw on Sept. Source
  • Airlines rev up to offer discount airfares — but don't be blinded by the price, say experts

    Canada News CBC News
    Canadian airlines are lining up to offer the latest trend in air travel: cheap, no-frills fares. But passengers should be careful what they wish for. That's because some may find the discount fares so stripped down, they're just not worth it. Source
  • B.C. joins national trend to clean up political fundraising — and we're paying for it

    Canada News CBC News
    British Columbia is introducing political contribution limits, banning union and corporate donations and asking taxpayers to make up the difference, bringing the province in line with fundraising rules in most other jurisdictions in Canada. Political fundraising in B.C. Source
  • 'Quintessential British treasure:' What next for London's disappearing phone booths?

    World News CBC News
    Like a throwback to a bygone era, bright red phone booths still line the streets of London's central tourist area. These days, they serve much less as a means of communication than as a backdrop for visitors' photos. Source
  • Edmonton Liberian community mourns 3 killed in collision with stolen truck

    Canada News CTV News
    Family, friends and members of Edmonton’s Liberian community are mourning the deaths of three women who were killed in a collision that involved a stolen truck. Jeannette Wright, Glorious Decontee David, Eva Fatu Tumbay and Janet Wright Gaye were on a road trip to visit family and friends in Minnesota when their minivan was struck around 3 a.m. Source
  • RCMP called off chase of stolen truck before 3 killed in crash near Alberta-Sask. border

    Canada News CBC News
    RCMP in Saskatchewan say it called off the police pursuit of a stolen truck that ended up colliding with a minivan and killing three women from Edmonton. On Thursday morning, officers in Maidstone, Sask. Source
  • Prince of the city

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Step aside, John Tory. The real prince of this town has red hair and a cheeky smile. Prince Harry — in Toronto for his Invictus Games — charmed, dazzled, joked, empathized, hugged children, petted dogs and truly lived up to his title as the People’s Prince. Source
  • Iran tests ballistic missile and 'we won't ask anyone's permission'

    World News CBC News
    Iran said on Saturday it had successfully tested a new ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 kilometres and would keep developing its arsenal despite U.S. pressure to stop. The United States has imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, saying its missile tests violate a UN resolution, which calls on Tehran not to undertake activities related to missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Source
  • Ugo Fredette now in Saint-Jérôme detention centre, police say

    Canada News CBC News
    Ugo Fredette is now in a detention centre in Saint-Jérôme after spending nearly a week in two Ontario hospitals and a Quebec hospital, after he was arrested last week in connection with an Amber Alert case. Source
  • Damage in Puerto Rico strains relief efforts by agencies

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Federal agencies grappled Saturday with the vast scale of the disaster in Puerto Rico left by Hurricane Maria, the third major storm to strike the U.S. in less than a month. Three days after the massive hurricane crossed the U.S. Source