DPRK

Korea talks limp to an end over feud on food aid

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By Jack Kim

SEOUL, June 1 (Reuters) - The two Koreas ended four days of talks on Friday unable to agree on anything other than to keep in touch, with the North demanding rice aid and the South refusing until its impoverished neighbour starts nuclear disarmament.

South Korea last month promised to send 400,000 tonnes of rice provided the reclusive North adhered to an international agreement it signed in February to start closing a nuclear plant and source of material for its atomic weapons programme.

The ministerial meeting ended with a brief statement saying they would stay in touch, but set no date for the next round.

The two sides spent just 3-=BD hours in formal talks since their meeting opened on Tuesday in Seoul.

North Korea has shown a short fuse at previous bilateral talks and stormed out of a round last year when Seoul said it would suspend rice handouts because of the North's test-firing of ballistic missiles in July 2006.

North Korea's chief delegate, Kwon Ho-ung, argued that Pyongyang had met its side of the bargain in previous talks by allowing the first train crossing in May over the border since the 1950-53 Korean War, and allowing more reunions of families divided by that conflict.

The two Koreas remain technically at war under a truce, with no peace treaty yet signed.

The rest of the agenda was largely left untouched.

South Korea did propose the two open regular train runs across their divided peninsula and North Korea demanded the end of joint South Korea-U.S. military drills.

Early in the talks, Kwon took a swipe at Washington, blaming it for the delay in transferring about $25 million in North Korean money from a Macau bank. It is that delay which Pyongyang has cited as the reason for putting off the nuclear shutdown.

A group of relatives of South Koreans believed to have been abducted by the North tried to storm the Seoul hotel where the talks were held, but were quickly overwhelmed by a throng of police who led them away.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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