Kaesong talks break down without agreement

2013-07-25 12:46:43 GMT2013-07-25 20:46:43(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Yoo Seungki

SEOUL, July 25 (Xinhua) -- Working-level talks between Seoul and Pyongyang to reopen the suspended Kaesong industrial complex broke down without any agreement, casting a dark shadow over inter- Korean relations.

The three-member delegations from both sides ended their sixth round of talks at 5:20 p.m. local time in Kaesong, just north of the heavily armed border. The two sides failed to reach any agreement and set a date for follow-up talks.

Right after the dialogue ended up as another failure, Park Chol-su, Pyongyang's top delegate, suddenly visited the pressroom in Kaesong without notice and told South Korean reporters that the working-level negotiation was "in danger of breakdown."

"If the fate of the Kaesong industrial zone is shattered in this way, military camps cannot help being restored (in Kaesong)," said Park, mentioning the possibly permanent blockage of cross- border land route in the western area.

With the Park's surprising visit, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) delegation handed out to South Korean reporters the draft copies of all proposals that it had made during the negotiation.

The DPRK sought to find a middle ground during the talks to make headway in the negotiation, but South Korea stuck to its guns without any concessions and created artificial impasse to the talks, said Park.

The top negotiator stressed that Pyongyang can operate the joint industrial park on its own without any support from Seoul.

In response, the spokesman's office of South Korea's Unification Ministry said in an emergency statement that the DPRK' s declaration of an actual breakdown of the talks was "deeply regrettable," cautioning that such declaration drove the fate of the Kaesong industrial zone to "stand at the serious crossroads."

The ministry warned that the South Korean government cannot help making "a grave resolution" unless the DPRK shows sincere attitude towards measures to prevent recurrence of its unilateral shutdown of the jointly operated industrial park in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong.

The eventual breakdown of the dialogue to revive the last- remaining symbol of inter-Korean rapprochement was feared to worsen the already-frozen relations. Seoul and Washington planned to hold their joint annual military drills next month, throwing far away the chance to mend ties between Seoul and Pyongyang.

The Kaesong industrial complex, where 123 South Korean companies run factories, has been suspended since the DPRK pulled out around 53,000 of its workers in early April in protest against the joint annual military exercises between South Korea and the United States.

From start to end of the talks, Seoul called on Pyongyang to take responsibility for the damages to South Korean companies caused by its unilateral shutdown of the joint industrial zone, and provide a clear assurance to prevent recurrence of such an incident.

Pyongyang showed positive stance at the fifth round of talks towards developing the Kaesong industrial zone into an international factory park, but it has consistently refused to accept Seoul's proposal to offer guarantees on recurrence prevention.

On Monday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye linked the Kaesong talks to broader inter-Korean relations in the future, indicating her unwillingness to make concessions.

Park said at a meeting with senior presidential secretaries that the dialogue will serve as "an important basis for principles and frameworks for establishing new inter-Korean relations," noting that it would be in the DPRK's own interest to create stable conditions for investment by devising legal, institutional tools conforming to international standards.

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