updated 7/13/2008 2:00:29 PM ET 2008-07-13T18:00:29

North Korea on Sunday rejected a proposal to resume stalled reconciliation talks with South Korea, while Seoul denounced the communist regime for the shooting death of a tourist that heightened tension between the divided nations.

North Korea's main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said in a commentary that South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's proposal to restart bilateral talks was not even worth considering. The paper called Lee's proposal a "deceitful" tactic to avoid taking responsibility for deteriorated ties.

The snub was another sign of strained relations between the Koreas, which intensified after a North Korean soldier fatally shot at a South Korean tourist Friday at a northern mountain resort.

South Korea has criticized the North for killing an innocent civilian, demanding that investigators from the South be allowed to probe the case.

"If an investigation into this tragic incident is not made, that will throw a cold blanket over all the people's expectations for progress in South-North relations," said the South Korean Unification Ministry in a statement. The ministry is responsible for ties with North Korea.

Tours halted pending investigation
The South Korean government suspended tours by South Koreans to the resort pending an investigation.

However, the North has rejected cooperating in a probe, saying the 53-year-old housewife ignored a soldier's warning and tried to flee. The North's tourism authorities demanded South Korea apologize for halting tours.

Unification Minister Kim Ho-nyeon said Sunday there were many unanswered questions about the shooting, such as how the middle-aged victim was able to cover 2 miles in 20 minutes walking on a beach.

All 350 South Korean tourists at the resort returned home Sunday afternoon, according to Hyundai Asan, the tour company. Still, some 1,300 officials and shopkeepers remained in the tourist enclave because it was unclear how long the tour will be suspended, said Hyundai Asan spokeswoman Jang Young-ran.

Tensions between the Koreas have flared since Lee, a pro-U.S. conservative, took office in February. His government has criticized human rights abuses in North Korea and has been skeptical of offering unconditional aid to the impoverished country, a sharp departure from the previous decade of liberal South Korean leaders.

Lee, however, said in a speech to parliament Friday that his government was willing to consult on how to implement previous accords that his liberal predecessors reached with communist leader Kim Jong Il at summits in 2000 and 2007. Lee had earlier said he would review the accords to determine whether they are worth implementing.

The North countered Sunday that no more talks were necessary to carry out the summit agreements.

Lee "is attempting to avoid taking responsibility for worsened North-South relations and mislead public opinion to resolve a crisis with deceitful remarks," it said. "With that shallow-minded tactic, he cannot hide his ugly identity as an anti-unification, fratricidal confrontational person and (his remarks) will only prompt rising national fury and disillusion."

Lee's office said it had no immediate plans to respond to the North's comments.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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