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Two Koreas end high-level talks with no apparent agreement




North and South Korea on Saturday wrapped up two days of rare, high-level talks aimed at easing cross-border tensions, with no agreement and no set date for further discussions.

A media pool report from the meeting venue in the jointly-run Kaesong industrial zone, on the North Korean side of the border, said the talks had ended without a joint statement and no agreed schedule for another round.

An official from the South’s Unification Ministry was to give a detailed briefing on the outcome of the dialogue later.

The vice-minister-level talks, with a mandate to address a broad but unspecified range of inter-Korean issues, were the first of their type for nearly two years.

While no substantial breakthrough had been expected, there were hopes of some tangible progress with both sides seeking the resumption of stalled cooperation projects that have significant symbolic and financial value.

The talks, held on the North Korean side of the border in the jointly-run Kaesong industrial zone, were a key element of an accord reached in August to end a dangerous military standoff.

At the height of that crisis, fuelled by high-decibel bellicose rhetoric, both Koreas went on a virtual war footing after a brief artillery exchange across their land border.

Although there had been no set agenda for the Kaesong discussions, they were understood to have focused on reviving two cross-border programmes.

The cash-strapped North wanted the South to resume lucrative tours to its scenic Mount Kumgang resort, which Seoul suspended in 2008 after a female tourist was shot dead by a North Korean guard.

Restarting the tours would be a useful propaganda victory for Kim Jong-Un, as well as providing a source of much-needed hard revenue.

South Korea, meanwhile, wanted the North to agree to regular reunions for families separated by the Korean War.

Currently the reunions are being held less than once a year and with only a very limited number of participants — despite a huge waiting list of largely elderly South Koreans desperate to see their relatives in the North before they die.

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