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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

North Korea Famine Summit Fails to Reach Aid Agreement

BEIJING -- The first talks in nearly five years between Red Cross officials from North and South Korea ended Monday without agreement on food aid for the famine-threatened North, officials said.


The talks bogged down over how much food would go to the North and how it would get there. But, in what was seen as a positive development, the two sides agreed to meet again for more talks expected soon.


Given the enmity between the two Koreas, their meeting at all was an indication of the severity of North Korea's food crisis and the alarm it has aroused in Pyongyang and Seoul.


South Korean Red Cross officials sought Monday to discuss how to move aid from South to North, but their northern counterparts refused, said Chang Moon-ik, spokesman for the South Korean Embassy in Beijing.


The North Koreans insisted that Seoul first spell out how much aid it plans to deliver and when.


"I expected they would have something in their hands to deliver to us, but when we arrived and met together, I came to know that they came with no firm pledge," said Paek Yong Ho, secretary general of the North Korean Red Cross. "Without knowing the quantity and the timing, how can we discuss transportation of relief goods?"


The South Koreans said they could not specify the amount of aid because it will depend on how much they receive in public donations.


The two sides agreed to further talks at a time and place to be discussed later through a telephone link at Panmunjom, a village in the heavily defended demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas, officials said.


"Each side fully understands the opponent's position. I think that is an achievement," said Chang, the South Korean spokesman.


Johan Schaar of the International Federation of the Red Cross said the talks took place in a "very good atmosphere" and were "very positive."