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N. Korea stays mute on Seoul's talks offer for 5th day
SEOUL, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) -- North Korea remained silent for a fifth day on Friday concerning South Korea's proposal for "final talks" aimed at reopening the joint industrial complex in Kaesong, the government said.

   Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae made the talks proposal on Sunday after six rounds of working-level talks in July ended without the two Koreas reaching an agreement on preconditions for resuming operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the last remaining symbol of South-North rapprochement.

   The two sides have made no headway on the crucial issue of safeguards to prevent another work stoppage at the industrial park in the North Korean border town. South Korea has insisted that Pyongyang must give solid guarantees that it will not take steps to close the complex again, while the North rejected such demands and called for the park's immediate resumption. The communist country also warned that its military may take control of the complex if no agreement is reached.

   The Ministry of Unification that handles all inter-Korean relations said the communist country did not send a message to the South regarding the dialogue offer when contact was made at 9 a.m. via the inter-Korean communications line that runs through the neutral truce village of Panmunjom. Under normal circumstances, the two Koreas exchange phone calls twice a day with the last call being placed at 4 p.m.

   All operations at Kaesong came to a screeching halt in early April after the North unilaterally pulled its workers from the complex amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The shutdown of Kaesong, which first started churning out products in late 2004, has cost the 123 South Korean companies with factories in the park upwards of 1.05 trillion won (US$933 million).

   Related to the lack of response, there is growing speculation in the South that the government will be compelled to take "grave" measures. Policymakers have not elaborated on what actions will be taken, but they may shut off all power and water to the complex, which the South supplies to the park. This can be followed by measures that could lead to the eventual closure of the park.

   Seoul has said it is reviewing insurance claims made by many Kaesong companies. Once companies receive their insurance payments, ownership of the factories will be taken over by the state-run Export-Import Bank of Korea.