(2nd LD) N. Korea fails to answer Panmunjom communication line
SEOUL, June 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Wednesday failed to answer calls made by the South on the communication line that runs through the truce village of Panmunjom, a day after high-level government talks were called off.
The move may be an indication that Pyongyang has linked the cancellation of the two-day talks to the telephone connection that was re-established just five days previously to facilitate communication for the meeting in Seoul.
The Ministry of Unification said its liaison officer placed a call at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., but the North did not pick up the phone.
The truce village of Panmunjom (Yonhap file photo)
A ministry source, who declined to be identified, said judging by the fact that the North has not picked up the phone in the afternoon as well as the morning, it may be that the communist country has decided to disconnect the line. Such a development means there is presently no direct way to contact the North because three military hotlines that were established in the past have all been disconnected in the face of mounting tensions.
The talks, which might have led to the easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, were suspended in the eleventh hour due to disagreements over the selection of chief delegates by the two sides.
The two Koreas exchanged the list of their five-member delegates to represent each other at the talks, but the North complained that South's chief negotiator, Vice Unification Minister Kim Nam-shik was a "low level" official unfit to lead the talks.
Demanding Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae represent the South Korean delegation, Pyongyang warned it would pull out of the talks set for Wednesday and Thursday if the South failed to comply.
Seoul had wanted Kim Yang-gon, head of the United Front Department in the North's ruling Workers' Party, to represent the North, and countered that the relatively little known Kang Ji-yong that the North tapped as the chief negotiator was not of the same stature as its minister.
The lack of response to calls placed by the South, meanwhile, comes after the North re-established the Red Cross liaison channel on Friday, a day after it proposed working level government-to-government talks.
The North unilaterally cut the communication link made up of one phone and one fax line on March 11, citing provocations by the South that was conducting military drills with the United States at the time.