Korean Talks Fail to Agree on Timetable for Reopening Gaeseong
Negotiators from North and South Korea failed to produce a timetable for reopening their jointly run industrial complex and agreed to meet for more talks next week.
The 12-hour negotiations yesterday at the Gaeseong Industrial Complex made some progress on other technical issues and will resume on Sept. 10, the Unification Ministry in Seoul said in an e-mailed statement.
The meeting was the first between the countries since the they agreed last month to reopen the factory park, which combines North Korean labor with South Korean capital. It was shuttered in April when Kim Jong Un withdrew the North’s 53,000 workers at a time of heightened tensions between the countries.
“The continuing talks show the North fears further isolation without keeping alive some ties with the South,” Kim Seok Hyang, a professor of North Korean studies at Seoul’s Ewha Womans University, said yesterday.
The meeting coincided with South Korea’s announcement that it will provide $6.3 million in humanitarian aid to the North through a United Nations agency. That assistance was in addition to $6 million in aid announced on Aug. 6.
The North’s leader, Kim, inspected two island bases involved in bombarding a South Korean island and killing four people in 2010, the official Korean Central News Agency reported today without saying when the visit took place.
The Gaeseong talks came days after the North shunned a U.S. envoy seeking the release of an American sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
Robert King, the State Department’s special envoy on North Korean human rights, was scheduled to visit North Korea on Aug. 30 to negotiate the release of Kenneth Bae, a tour operator and Christian missionary who was arrested in a North Korean city in November for alleged hostile acts against the country.
King’s trip would have been the first public visit to North Korea by a U.S. official in more than two years. The two countries remain in a deadlock over ways to restart multinational talks on the North’s nuclear arms programs.
North Korea said it revoked King’s invitation over U.S. military drills with the South.
The joint military exercises from Aug. 19-30 included B-52 bombers and “beclouded the hard-won atmosphere of humanitarian dialog,” a spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said, according a statement issued on Aug. 31 to the Korean Central News Agency.
U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement last week that the annual drills were defense-oriented. It didn’t say whether B-52 bombers participated.
“North Korea must have realized King wasn’t bringing any political gift with him,” Ewha’s Kim said. “Releasing Bae just wan’t a profitable business for the North.”
The U.S. was “surprised and disappointed” by the cancellation of King’s visit, Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement before the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s comment.
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