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Page last updated at 13:21 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 14:21 UK

Rare Koreas talks last 22 minutes

A North Korean border guard at Panmunjom, file image
An atmosphere of suspicion persists on both sides of the border

The first formal talks between North and South Korea for more than a year lasted just 22 minutes and ended without agreement, Seoul officials say.

The meeting, held at the Kaesong joint industrial zone located in the North, had been delayed for hours because of a row over the venue and agenda.

Neither side has said what was discussed during the brief meeting, which was requested by North Korea.

The North had said it planned to make an important statement about Kaesong.

The talks come at a time of heightened regional tensions after the North's controversial rocket launch on 5 April, which was widely seen by its neighbours as a disguised missile test.

Following UN criticism, Pyongyang announced it was quitting international disarmament talks and restarting its nuclear programme. It has expelled US and UN nuclear monitors.

Since a conservative administration, with less appetite for unconditional aid, took over in Seoul last February, the North has cut off all official communication in protest.

'Act of war'

South Korean officials travelled to Kaesong early on Tuesday but talks did not start until after nightfall - more than 10 hours later. The talks lasted just 22 minutes.

An official said the two sides had been in disagreement over where to hold the talks, the agenda and participants.

Tuesday's talks were called by the North because it said it had an important announcement to make concerning the industrial zone. No details of the brief meeting were given.

The BBC's John Sudworth in Seoul says that in recent days North Korea has been turning up its angry rhetoric, reminding South Korea that its capital Seoul is just 50km (30 miles) from the border - well within artillery range.

It has been angered by South Korea's plans to join a US-led initiative to track and stop ships suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea may want to use the meeting to raise further protests about such a move, which it says would constitute "an act of war", our correspondent says.

Some observers have suggested that it may want to raise the fate of a South Korean worker currently in its custody.

The man was detained at the joint industrial zone three weeks ago on suspicion of denouncing the North's political system.



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