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North, South talks on Kaesong break down again

PYONGYANG, North Korea, July 26 (UPI) -- North-South Korea talks on reopening their joint industrial complex broke down again over safeguards to prevent the facility's shutdown in the future.

The talks Thursday, their sixth round on resuming operations at the complex in North Korea's border city of Kaesong, ended without agreement on how to prevent another work stoppage, which South Korea's presidential office said is key to the whole exercise, Yonhap News Agency reported Friday.

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It was not clear if the two sides had scheduled their next round.

Seoul has been insisting the North give assurances it will not stop operations at the complex for non-economic reasons such as the annual U.S.-South Korea military exercises. The South also wants the isolated and impoverished Communist country to take responsibility for the current shutdown.

The North, however, wants work at the complex to resume immediately and has said it will not take sole responsibility for shuttering the facility.

The 10-year-old Kaesong complex, the only economic link between the two Koreas, with 123 South Korean firms participating, was shuttered in early April amid mounting tensions between the two countries. The North unilaterally pulled its 53,000 workers and banned the entry of South Korean representatives and supplies into the complex.

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From the start of the current round of talks, each side has blamed the other for the idling of the facility, South Korea estimates the factories and companies may have so far sustained losses of more than $900 million.

In the latest round of talks, Yonhap reported the North said it will not interfere with Kaesong operations in the future if Seoul promises not to provoke the North politically or engage in hostile military actions.

"Seoul's demand for safeguards and development is not something that the North can reject and is within the realm of common sense that adhere to international practices [of running a factory park]," a spokesman for South Korea's Ministry of Unification was quoted as saying.

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