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Korea talks break down

North Korea abruptly halted Cabinet-level talks with South Korea on Friday, demanding an end to the South’s joint military exercises with the United States.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Despite South Korea’s massive pledges of aid, North Korea abruptly ended Cabinet-level talks on Friday, demanding an end to the South’s joint military exercises with the United States.

The three-day meeting in the North’s capital, Pyongyang, failed to produce agreements on increasing economic exchanges or reducing military tensions between the two Koreas, according to a joint statement.

It said the next round of talks will take place in Seoul on Aug. 3-6.

Earlier in the talks, the South rejected the demand by saying the joint exercises shouldn’t be a part of the discussion. Instead, it urged the communist North to agree to high-level military talks later.

The South hopes to open military talks to discuss ways of avoiding naval clashes that sometimes occur along the poorly marked western sea border as fishing boats jostle for position during crab-catching season in May and June.

North Korea said it would open military talks only if South Korea halts routine military exercises with the United States, which it calls preparations to invade the isolated country, according to pool reports filed by South Korean journalists.

Meanwhile, a convoy of 20 orange South Korean trucks were poised to cross military checkpoints and across the inter-Korean Demilitarized Zone, the world’s most heavily guarded border, to deliver school supplies to victims of a deadly train explosion in North Korea.

The 8-ton trucks and their cargo of 50 blackboards and 1,500 desk-and-chair sets are part of a $25 million aid package South Korea promised last week to help rebuild the North Korean town of Ryongchon, where the train blast killed 169 people, injured 1,300 people and destroyed 8,100 homes.

Two-thirds of the victims were children killed when their school was shattered.