October 28, 2010 12:18
North Korea has asked South Korea for 500,000 tons of rice and 300,000 tons of fertilizer during Red Cross talks about the reunions of families separated by the Korean War.
The talks in Kaesong on Tuesday and Wednesday have already seen a North Korean call for the resumption of lucrative package tours to the Mt. Kumgang resort before reunions take place. But the South Korean said the two issues have nothing to do with one another.
The South Korean delegation had called for letting more families separated by the Korean War meet on a regular basis, but the North tried to link agreement with humanitarian aid, according to chief South Korean delegate Kim Yong-hyun. The North Korean delegation reportedly said family reunions can be expanded, "only if the South gives rice and fertilizer."
According to a Unification Ministry official, the North Korean delegation repeatedly made the demand throughout the talks. Kim said the South Koreans pointed out the Red Cross is not in a position to make a decision on such a huge amount of aid.
The North also repeated previous calls to "resolve the issue of the venue" for the family reunions. By "venue" it apparently meant Mt. Kumgang, where Seoul built a reunion center that was recently seized by the North.
The two Koreas wound up the talks at 4:50 p.m. Wednesday without agreement except to meet again on Nov. 25.
"The North seems to be under the impression that it has done the South a great favor by proposing family reunions," another ministry official said. "For 10 years under the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations, we gave the North 255,000 tons of rice on annual average. It's nonsense to demand double the amount in return for family reunions."
Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said, "Even though it's been more than seven months since the North attacked the Navy corvette Cheonan, it has taken no step forward. The key to the exit lies in the hands of the North."
The ministry official said Hyun meant that "if it really wants aid, the North should stop its disguised peace offensive and take sincere steps," including apologizing for the Cheonan attack.
Meanwhile, a government official said aid "cannot be decided out of humanitarian considerations alone." He added other kinds of talks "can be considered."
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