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Koreas Fail to Agree on Gaeseong Restart With More Talks Planned

July 15 (Bloomberg) -- North and South Korea ended talks without agreement on restarting operations at their jointly-run Gaeseong industrial park, instead scheduling a fourth round of negotiations to be held this week.

The two sides will meet again July 17 at the Gaeseong complex located 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of the border, having made no progress today, the Unification Ministry said.

Even as the factory park talks drag on, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s regime has begun toning down its rhetoric, after withdrawing its workers from Gaeseong on April 8 to protest tightened United Nations sanctions and U.S.-South Korean military drills. Kim’s isolation intensified after China, his biggest backer, joined the U.S. and South Korea in condemning his nuclear ambitions.

While the ministry said July 7 the two Koreas share a desire to reopen Gaeseong, they haven’t agreed on the details. South Korea wants the North to take measures to prevent future closures, while the North is calling on the South not to do anything -- like conduct military exercises -- that hinders operations at Gaeseong.

Independent of today’s talks, more than 140 businessmen from 48 textile companies surveyed facilities in Gaeseong and brought back completed goods they left behind when the North shut the zone in April.

‘Serious Misfortune’

The outcome of the talks will “have a bearing on overall inter-Korean relations” and the South will face “serious misfortune” if it maintains its “arrogant demeanor,” the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea told the South on July 11, according to a notice carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency on July 13.

South Korean President Park Geun Hye’s government has said it will not engage the North until it gives up its nuclear weapons, aside from talks on joint economic projects and humanitarian issues.

Park was elected last year partly on a pledge to boost ties through “trust-building.” She has said a nuclear-armed North Korea is unacceptable.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sangwon Yoon in Seoul at syoon32@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net

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