High-level talks between North and South Korea have broken up without an agreement and with no date set for a later meeting, news outlets reported Saturday. The talks were a rarity for both countries, which have had strained relations since August when land mines injured two South Korean soldiers by the border.
Pyongyang, North Korea, was hoping to negotiate the resumption of cross-border tours of the Mount Kumgang resort, which were suspended in 2008 after a South Korean tourist was shot. North Korea is facing a financial crisis, and it sees in tourism the chance to alleviate financial strain. South Korea, however, wanted to discuss the issue of family reunification among those separated by the Korean War, which ended in 1953. Disagreement over which issue was to be at the forefront was partly what led to the breakdown of the two days of talks.
"They insisted that the two sides reach an agreement on the resumption of the tours first," chief South Korean delegate Hwang Boo-gi said. "Our side stressed that the humanitarian issue of separated families and the resumption of the tours to Mount Kumgang are different in nature and should not be bundled together."
The talks were the first of their kind in two years. The countries have maintained tense relations in past decades, and those relations soured several months ago over a prolonged, volatile border dispute that threatened to upend a relative calm.
Hwang said he offered to resume talks after they failed Saturday but that the North Korean delegation "conveyed its decision there was no need to continue talks," Channel NewsAsia reported. The countries did not release any sort of joint statement and apparently reached no agreement.
The talks began just one day after North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un said the country had developed a hydrogen bomb, a claim that was met internationally with skepticism. There was little indication the two countries discussed Pyongang's nuclear weapons program, a point of concern for Seoul.