July 26, 2013 10:00
Talks between mid-ranking officials from North and South Korea to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex broke down on Thursday and both sides went home without even setting a fresh date.
It was the sixth round of negotiations to try and revive the cross-border project, which was shut down on April 9. But talks snagged early on who was responsible for the halt in operations there and on ways to prevent any future capricious closures by the North.
At 5:30 p.m., just after the talks broke down, the chief North Korean delegate Pak Chol-su and 20 others in his team stormed into a room where South Korean reporters gathered to cover the talks and put the blame on the South.
They read a pre-prepared statement before reporters and distributed copies of drafts and amendments of the agreements made in previous talks, while preventing South Korean officials from getting into the press room, causing shouts and scuffles.
"If the South has no will to normalize the industrial park, the fate of the joint venture is clear," Pak said. When asked if he thought the talks have broken down, Pak said, "they're moving in that direction." He added that troops would be stationed near the complex if it is not reopened.
South Korea voiced "strong regret" and warned of "grave actions" over North Korea's sudden announcement.
"In the latest series of talks, we have consistently made it clear that no unilateral closure must occur in the future. Unless North Korea truly guarantees safety measures (to prevent sudden closure), a final decision seems inevitable," the Unification Ministry said, suggesting Seoul is prepared to abandon the project altogether.
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