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No agreement on Kaesong talks, two Koreas to meet again

  |   July 11, 2013 at 1:35 AM
PYONGYANG, North Korea, July 11 (UPI) -- North and South Korea failed to reach agreement on resuming operations at their joint Kaesong industrial complex but agreed to meet again Monday.

The working-level talks between the two countries' delegations in North Korea's border city of Kaesong, where the complex is located, ended without an agreement Wednesday, but an official with South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said the two sides agreed to meet again Monday, Yonhap News reported.

Operations at the 10-year-old facility, the only economic link between the two Koreas, with 123 South Korean firms participating, were suspended in early April after North Korea, maintaining its belligerent posture, pulled its 53,000 workers and banned the entry of South Korean representatives and supplies into the complex.

The complex was set up following a 2000 summit between then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Last Saturday, the two sides held a lengthy meeting at the border village of Panmunjom, agreeing in principle to normalize operations at the complex, which led to the latest round of talks to work out the details.

"Talks have been concluded without any agreement reached, although both sides concurred on the need for 'constructive development' of the industrial park," Suh Ho, the chief South Korean negotiator, said. The two sides met five times Wednesday.

However, Suh said they were unable to reach a compromise, suggesting the policy difference remains quite wide, Yonhap reported.

South Korea's position is that there needs to be agreement on internationally accepted safeguards and business standards so the complex can be kept running, unaffected by political and non-economic developments.

North Korea apparently wants an immediate resumption of operations.

North Korea, as reported by its official news agency KCNA, blamed Seoul for the failure to reach agreement.

"The insincerity on the part of South Korean officials caused the talks to make no progress," Yonhap reported KCNA said.

China's Xinhua News Agency quoted North Korea's top delegate, Park Chol Su, as saying the joint industrial zone should be reopened soon after completing maintenance work.

Xinhua said North Korea reportedly held firm to its position that the suspension of operations at the complex stem mainly from the joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States, and the so-called insult on its "supreme dignity" by South Korean media.

Suh, in his speech, was quoted as calling for "constructive development" of the joint venture, saying that Kaesong must become a "safe" place to do business and a place where free business activities are guaranteed.

"The South wants the North to announce solid actions that will convince everyone that it has no intention of taking unilateral action to prevent movement or pull out its laborers in the future," he said.

He also was quoted as saying there is a need to allow foreign companies to invest in the park and to transform it into an international industrial region.

Yonhap said analysts have warned the negotiations may drag on.

The Kaesong complex produced more than $450 million worth of goods last year and North Korean workers at the facility earned millions of dollars in wages.

Tensions have heightened on the Korean Peninsula since North Korea, in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, conducted its third nuclear test in February and a long-range rocket launch last December.

Yonhap earlier reported a group of 60 businessmen representing mostly electricity and electronics companies, along with 36 support personnel, crossed the border Wednesday morning to inspect their production facilities at Kaesong. It quoted sources accompanying the delegation that the plants looked clean on the outside.

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