Talks between North, South Korea delayed (Lead)

Seoul, April 21 (Inditop) The first direct talks between the governments of North and South Korea in more than a year were delayed Tuesday because of differences over procedural issues, South Korea said.

Seoul’s delegation to the talks in the North Korean border city of Kaesong was initially unsure of who would take part from the North Korean side, a spokeswoman for the South’s Unification Ministry said.

The two sides could also not agree in which building the discussions should be held, she said.

The South Korean delegation left Monday morning for North Korea, but several hours after its arrival in Kaesong, where the two neighbours jointly operate an industrial park, the meeting still had not taken place.

North Korea proposed the talks Saturday, saying it had an “important message” for South Korea about the industrial park.

The talks would be the first government-level discussions held with the totalitarian North by President Lee Myung Bak’s government, which took office in February 2008.

There have been talks in that time between the two nations’ militaries, however, and in those discussions in October, North Korea threatened to close the park, which is one of the most visible signs of the reconciliation agreements signed between the two neighbours during the era of South Korea’s “Sunshine Policy” with the North.

North Korea’s military made the threat because of its objections to South Korean activists dropping propaganda leaflets in its territory.

But the latest drop by balloons sent over the inter-Korean border was made a day after North Korea’s internationally condemned April 5 rocket launch. North Korea said the launch was for a communications satellite, but other countries accused it of testing a long-range missile.

Relations between the two Koreas have worsened considerably since the conservative Lee took office. He has taken a harder line against South Korea’s totalitarian neighbour than his liberal predecessors, who implemented the Sunshine Policy and signed reconciliation pacts with Pyongyang.

The Kaesong industrial park allows firms from South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest economy, to set up manufacturing facilities there and provide jobs for North Koreans.