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(2nd LD) Silent N. Korea blames Seoul for Kaesong talks breakdown

2013/08/06 17:40

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, comments in paras 2-3, 15)

SEOUL, Aug. 6 (Yonhap) -- North Korea continued to ignore South Korea's proposal for final talks on the normalization of a suspended joint industrial park on Tuesday, blaming Seoul for the breakdown in stalled negotiations.

The Ministry of Unification, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said the communist country did not send any message to the South regarding the dialogue offer when the daily contacts were made at 9 a.m. and again at 4 p.m. via the communication line that runs through the neutral truce village of Panmunjom.

Over a week ago, Seoul issued an "ultimatum" demanding a meeting so the North can promise never to unilaterally close down the Kaesong Industrial Complex for any political or military reason. Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae had called for the final talks on July 28 after six rounds of working-level negotiations ended without the two Koreas reaching an agreement on preconditions for resuming operations at the complex.

The government also said Sunday that it was losing patience with Pyongyang's unwillingness to make known its position on offering safeguards.

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 safeguard guarantees on the running of the factory park while the North rejected such demands and called for an immediate resumption of production. Pyongyang also warned that its military may take control of the complex if no understanding is reached.

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$934 million).

Concerning the deadlock in talks, the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, said in an editorial that South Korean authorities lacked the will to actively seek South-North dialogue and cooperation.

The editorial monitored in Seoul said failure to make a breakthrough at the Kaesong talks held in July was the inevitable result of this lack of will, the paper stressed, making clear the North blamed the South for the current impasse.

"Seoul talks about 'trust,' but it is not interested in building inter-Korean confidence and is only focused on working with foreign powers (to pressure the North)," the daily said. "Such a ploy to undermine the North will hinder any meaningful progress in South-North relations."

   Official South Korean sources said the report by the newspaper did not constitute a formal reply to Seoul's talks proposal by Pyongyang.

"Rodong Sinmun's editorials are used to lay out the views of the North," an insider at the unification ministry said. The official, who did not wish to be identified, pointed out that a reply to the talks proposal would most likely come in the form of a statement by a state organization or agency.

The official, meanwhile, confirmed that the South and North Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council is in the final stages of looking into the insurance claims of the South Korean companies.

"The review process that was to be concluded on Monday has been delayed by a day," he said, adding that once the council reaches a decision, payment will be handed out as soon as possible. Each of the 109 companies that applied for insurance coverage can get a maximum 7 billion won in insurance money.

Local observers said that despite a lack of confirmation and the government's stance that it is committed to the development of the growth of Kaesong, Seoul could move to first cut off all power and water to the complex, followed by other measures, unless the North accepts the South's safeguard demands.