Plans for the first high-level talks between North and South Korea have hit a wall following a falling out early on during negotiations for the meeting in Seoul.
Pyongyang retracted its decision to send officials to Seoul for the two-day meeting starting Wednesday after Seoul replaced Ryoo Kihl-jae, the South’s unification minister, as the head of its delegation, reports The Associated Press.
A day before the scheduled meeting, Seoul said it was sending Ryoo’s deputy to lead the negotiations with Kim Yang-gon, head of the United Front Department of North Korea’s ruling party, Kim Hyung-suk, a spokesman for Seoul’s Unification ministry, told reporters in a briefing.
The North called off the meeting, saying its delegation would be led by a senior official in its Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea and that the two men were not of equivalent standing, reports Financial Times.
The fact that no South Korean government minister would attend the talks was a “provocation” against the North, Pyongyang said, adding that the dissolution of talks was entirely South Korea’s responsibility. South Korea said it is still open to talks if North Korea reconsiders.
The cancellation of the meeting will undermine hopes of rapprochement on the Korean peninsula and could freeze over relations.