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No one's picking up in North Korea day after talks with South break down

A large map showing an area of the demilitarized zone separating North Korea's Kaepoong county and South Korea's Paju city, is seen at the U
A large map showing an area of the demilitarized zone separating North Korea's Kaepoong county and South Korea's Paju city, is seen at the U

SEOUL (Reuters) - A day after snubbing Seoul by offering to send a junior official to hold the first supposedly high-level talks between the two Koreas in six years, North Korea appeared to be refusing to pick up a phone line it re-established just last Friday.

The unpredictable North had called for talks between the two countries in order to try to reopen a money-spinning joint industrial park that it closed in April after threatening the South with nuclear annihilation.

The proposed two days of talks were due to start on Wednesday but foundered over disagreement over the seniority of delegates.

Two attempts by Seoul on Wednesday to raise North Korean officials using a Red Cross hotline that was shut by Pyongyang amid rising tension earlier this year failed, according to the Unification Ministry in the South Korean capital.

The ministry said it made calls at 9 a.m. (8 p.m. EDT on Tuesday) on Wednesday to re-establish contact and at 4 p.m., but they went unanswered.

North Korea has not commented on the calls.

The talks had been billed as offering a breakthrough that could see the joint Kaesong industrial park on the border between the two countries re-open. The park generates $90 million a year in wages for North Korea whose economy is smaller than it was 20 years ago.

The North's failure to turn up for the talks in Seoul appeared to cast a pall over prospects for an improvement in ties between the two sides, still technically at war after their 1950-53 civil conflict ended with a mere truce.

After the talks were called off, South Korea's presidential office accused the North of trying to humiliate it with its plans to send a junior official.

North Korea's main diplomatic ally, China, had urged the reclusive state to return to the negotiating table after the country staged its third nuclear weapons test in February.

Beijing backed U.N. sanctions imposed after that test.

(Reporting by David Chance; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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