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Two Koreas end apparently inconclusive high-level talks

North and South Korea have finished two days of talks aimed at improving bilateral relations. But the meeting ended without signs of tangible progress.

The talks, which took place in the Kaesong industrial zone on the North Korean side of the highly militarized border between the two states, ended without a joint statement or agreement on when another meeting could take place, according to a media pool report.

The vice-minister-level meeting, the first of its kind in nearly two years, was a key element in an accord reached in August to head off a growing cross-border military crisis that at its height saw the two countries carry out a brief artillery exchange.

The discussions in Kaesong were understood to have focused on resuming two stalled cooperation projects.

The North wants the South to restart tours to the scenic Mount Kumgang resort, which were stopped by the South in 2008 in response to the shooting of a female tourist by a North Korean guard. The tours would be a valuable source of hard currency for the cash-strapped North.

Infrequent reunions

The South, in its turn, wants to North to agree to regular reunions for families who were torn apart by the 1950-1953 Korean War. At present, such reunions take place once a year at most, and only a very limited number of people are permitted to take part, despite the many aging South Koreans who are eager to see their relatives in the North once more before they die.

Watch video 02:12

Heartbreaking reunions in North Korea

The August accord also included family reunions in October organized at short notice in a bid to defuse the rising tensions.

The talks reportedly ended amid a stalemate over the two issues, with the North refusing to discuss reunions further unless the South agreed to restart tours, which it declined to do, according to South Korea's vice minister of unification, Hwang Boogi.

But Hwang, who was the South's head negotiator, told reporters that the government in Seoul "still maintains its basic stance to cultivate a normal relationship between the South and North, and continue dialogue with North Korea."

The two countries are technically still at war, as the conflict ended only with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

tj/jm (dpa, AFP, Reuters, AP)

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