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(3rd LD) Inter-Korean military talks end without agreement: spokesman
SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea ended preliminary military talks Wednesday without an agreement as the North refused to apologize and admit its responsibility for deadly provocations last year, officials said.

   "The talks ended as of around 2:40 p.m., and no agreement was reached," Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for the South's Defense Ministry, said, adding the two sides even failed to set a date for future preliminary talks.

   The preliminary talks, the first inter-Korean contact since the North's deadly bombardment of a South Korean island last November, were aimed at setting the date, agenda and place of higher-level military talks for discussions on ways to lessen military tensions gripping the Korean Peninsula.

   "The talks failed to narrow differences over the agenda for a high-level meeting," the spokesman said.

   Kim said the North's representatives "unilaterally walked out of a meeting room."

   The two sides had held the preliminary talks at the border village of Panmunjom since Tuesday, but haggled over the agenda and other key terms of higher-level talks.

   North Korea has not bent on two preconditions set by South Korea to upgrade the level of the military talks -- an explicit apology for the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island and the torpedo attack on a warship last March as well as a promise to not carry out more provocations.

   North Korean representatives refused to acknowledge Pyongyang's involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan warship or apologize for the Nov. 23 bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island, according to officials involved in the preliminary talks.

   Instead, North Korea demanded South Korea discuss a comprehensive agenda of easing military tensions as well as the two incidents at a higher-level meeting, which South Korean officials saw as a tactic to hold subsequent talks without meeting the South's preconditions.

   Tensions persist on the Korean Peninsula after the North's artillery strike on Yeonpyeong Island killed two marines and two civilians. The bombardment came after a multinational investigation concluded that North Korea torpedoed a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors.

   North Korea has so far denied any involvement in the torpedo attack of the Cheonan warship. The communist regime has also claimed that its artillery attack on Yeonpyeong was legitimate because the South provoked it first by holding a live-fire drill near the island with some shells falling on the North's side.

   kdh@yna.co.kr
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