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World - Asia/Pacific

Talks between North, South Korea adjourn with no headway

Pak, left, and Yang greet each other in Beijing

CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon reviews agenda items being discussed by North and South Korea (June 22)
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June 22, 1999
Web posted at: 11:58 a.m. EDT (1558 GMT)

In this story:

Yellow Sea battle


BEIJING (CNN) -- High-level talks between North and South Korea were plagued Tuesday by tensions over last week's naval clashes, and lasted just 90 minutes before the North's delegates left the meeting.

The negotiations in Beijing -- the first bilateral discussions in more than a year -- were scheduled to deal with the issue of reuniting families on the divided peninsula and aid to the struggling North.

"In the meeting today, the two sides exchanged basic positions and exchanged opinions on the issues of separated families, the implementation of the basic agreement and the incident in the (Yellow) Sea," South Korean negotiator Yang Yong-shik said after the meeting.

His North Korean counterpart, Pak Yong Su, left the negotiating site -- the Kempinski Hotel in Beijing -- without commenting. Later, North Korean media reported that Pak conditioned his delegation's attendance at another meeting on South Korea making "full preparations" to apologize.

A South Korean Embassy spokesman, Han Jae Heuk, said he knew nothing of the report. He said negotiators agreed to talk by phone later in the day to set up another session.

Yang said he presented the North Korean delegation with a three-stage plan for bringing the families together: first, locating separated family members in the North, then exchanging letters and, finally, arranging family reunions. The North Koreans did not immediately respond to the proposal.

Yellow Sea battle

North and South Korean representatives exchanged strong words about last week's gunboat battle in the Yellow Sea. North Korea accused the South of deliberately provoking the attack, a charge South Korea denies.

The June 15 skirmish happened in disputed waters claimed by both North and South Korea. North Korean fishing boats frequently stray into the area south of a U.N.-imposed sea border, but generally leave when challenged by South Koreans.

North and South Korean warships clashed in disputed waters in the Yellow Sea last week  

But last week, fishing boats crossed the border accompanied by North Korean warships that did not leave when the South demanded their departure. The gun battle ensued after South Korean ships tried to physically push the North Koreans back across the boundary line.

Both sides claimed to have heavily damaged the other.

As the diplomats talked in Beijing, North Korean and U.N. Command generals met in the demilitarized zone dividing the Cold War rivals in an attempt to ease the military tensions.

That meeting ended as did a meeting a week ago, immediately after the Yellow Sea clash -- with no agreement. North Korea repeated its assertions that the territory in question belongs to it, and charged that the United States is behind the South's "provocations."

"If the U.S. forces' side infiltrates provokers again into the (North's) territorial waters ..., the Korean People's Army will not remain a passive onlooker to it but bury them in the sea forever through every necessary self-defensive means," the Korean Central News Agency quoted North Korean Lt. Gen. Ri Chan Bok as saying during the Panmunjom meeting.

In other developments:

  • North Korea continued to hold South Korean tourist Kim Young-Mi, after accusing her of encouraging a tour guide to defect. Until she is freed, South Korea has suspended its multimillion-dollar contract with the North for tours to the Kumgang Mountains, a former center of the Buddhist religion.
  • U.S. special envoy Charles Kartman arrived in Beijing Tuesday for separate talks with North Korea, to be held Wednesday and Thursday. The sides are expected to discuss U.S. findings during a visit to a suspected North Korean nuclear weapons complex.

Correspondent Rebecca MacKinnon and Reuters contributed to this report.

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June 18, 1999
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June 17, 1999
Korean warships avoid confrontation after naval battle
June 16, 1999
Seoul: Engagement to continue despite deadly Korean naval battle
June 15, 1999

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