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North Korea Scraps North-South Family Reunions

South Korea, the biggest donor to the impoverished North, refused to discuss further humanitarian aid until a breakthrough is made in the missile and nuclear issues.
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Jul 19, 2006
North Korea said Wednesday it would scrap cross-border family reunions on the divided peninsula, accusing Seoul of siding with its Western allies in the standoff over Pyongyang's missile launches.

The North's Red Cross chief, Jang Jae-On, slammed South Korea for "abusing the humanitarian issue for meeting its sinister purpose to serve the outsiders."

"Our side is, therefore, of the view that it has become impossible to hold any discussion related to humanitarian issues, to say nothing of arranging any reunion between separated families and relatives between the two sides," he said in a letter to South Korea.

At inter-Korean ministerial talks last week, South Korea urged the defiant communist country to give an assurance that it would stop firing off any more missiles and return to six-party talks on its nuclear weapons program.

But North Korea refused to budge, insisting Washington should first remove financial sanctions imposed on it for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting.

In response, South Korea, the biggest donor to the impoverished North, refused to discuss further humanitarian aid until a breakthrough is made in the missile and nuclear issues.

North Korean delegates issued an angry statement warning of "disastrous" consequences for inter-Korean ties.

The peninsula was divided politically in 1948, a split that was cemented by the 1950-53 war. The two nations have yet to sign a peace treaty following the end of the conflict.

The two Koreas decided at a landmark summit in 2000 to start more systematic reunions for relatives separated by the war.

Since then more than 13,600 Koreans have taken part in the reunions. The last such meeting took place on June 19 at North Korea's Mount Kumgang resort.

The North's Red Cross chief said South Korea had laid "a stumbling block" to inter-Korean reconciliation.

"This is an act of treachery little short of sacrificing the humanitarian work between fellow countrymen to serve the US and Japan keen on applying sanctions against (North Korea) with bitterness toward it," he said.

Therefore, it is impossible to arrange a special video meeting of separated families marking Korea's liberation from Japan's colonial rule on August 15 and to construct a reunion center at the Kumgang resort, he said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links

North Korea Launches Wartime Alert
Seoul (AFP) Jul 19, 2006
North Korea has launched a wartime alert, putting its armed forces and nationals in a state of a war mobilization, an unconfirmed news report said here Wednesday.

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