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Saturday, 18 April, 1998, 04:09 GMT 05:09 UK
Korea talks break down
press conference
The two sides could not agree on the detail of the deal
The first government-level talks between North and South Korea for almost four years have collapsed.

After nearly a week of meetings in Beijing, the North had agreed in principle to the South Korean demand for Red Cross-sponsored talks on reuniting families separated by the Korean War.

In return, the South would have sent fertilizer to North Korea, which is facing severe food shortages.

But the two sides could not agree on the details of the deal, and the North announced that it had no plans to take part in further discussions.

The head of the South Korean delegation, Jeong Se-hyun, said: "At midnight North Korea unilaterally told us they did not think it was necessary to hold another session because there was no change in our positions."

The talks had been due to reopen on Saturday after three days of deadlock.

The BBC's correspondent in Beijing, Carrie Gracie, said the problem appeared to be a matter of timing.

"The North insisted that the humanitarian assistance from the South had to be delivered to North Korea first, and only then could progress be made on the issue of family reunions between those separated for half a century.

"The South said that is no good."

Both sides say they are hopeful that talks could be restarted again in the future.

BBC News
The BBC's correspondent in Beijing, Carrie Gracie, says the problem was a matter of timing
See also:

31 Mar 98 | Asian economic crises
South Korea: clawing its way back to recovery
17 Apr 98 | Asia-Pacific
Fear over North Korean food aid
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