North Korea has called off a meeting of high-level officials with their counterparts from the South less than 24 hours before it was meant to start. The North was apparently offended by the South's choice of delegates.
The news of Pyongyang's decision on Tuesday to pull out of the talks at the last minute came from a spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry.
"North Korea, taking issue with the level of our chief delegate, unilaterally told us that it was postponing the dispatch of its delegation," spokesman Kim Hyung-Seok told a press conference in the South's capital, Seoul.
According to Kim, Pyongyang objected to Seoul's decision to name a deputy minister to the delegation, describing it as a "grave provocation."
"Such an allegation is absolutely absurd in terms of both common sense and international standards," Kim added.
Delay or withdrawal?
There was no immediate comment from the North and it was not clear whether Pyongyang's withdrawal was final or if the talks could go ahead at a later date.
The bitter rivals had agreed at a preparatory meeting on Sunday to hold two-days of ministerial-level talks in Seoul beginning on Wednesday. This would have been the first high-level talks between the two Koreas in almost six years.
One of the main topics the two sides had agreed to discuss was ways of riving two high-profile economic cooperation projects, including the Kaesong industrial park (pictured above) located on the North Korean side of the Demilizarized Zone which separates it from the South.
Pyongyang caught many by surprise last week when it signalled its willingness to hold talks with Seoul following months of saber-rattling.
The North had repeatedly threatened to attack the South after the United Nations Security Council tightened up already existing economic sanctions on Pyongyang, after it carried out a third nuclear test back in February – something that violated UN sanctions already in place.
pfd/ipj (AFP, AP, Reuters)