Pyongyang demands massive aid at talks on family reunions (Roundup)
Oct 27, 2010, 15:48 GMT
Seoul - North Korea on Wednesday tied the holding of regular reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War with substantial food aid from South Korea, the Unification Ministry in Seoul said.
North Korea sees the aid 'as a kind of condition,' a ministry spokeswoman said.
Pyongyang requested 500,000 tons of rice and 300,000 tons of fertilizer at the final day of two-day talks between the two neighbours' Red Cross associations, which ended in the North Korean border town of Kaesong without an agreement.
The South Korean Red Cross does not have the authority to approve such a request and the government must look into it, Kim Yong Hyun, the leader of its delegation to the talks, was quoted as saying in Kaesong by South Korean media.
The talks about humanitarian issues were scheduled to resume November 25.
Seoul had hoped for an agreement with North Korea to hold regular reunions for the tens of thousands of families ripped apart by the Korean War and subsequent division of the Korean Peninsula.
Because North and South Korea still remain technically at war after a ceasefire and no peace treaty ended the war, contacts over the border is usually impossible.
The Stalinist North and capitalist South have held irregular, brief reunions since 2000, and the first one in a year was scheduled to take place from Saturday to next Friday in the North Korean resort of Mount Kumgang.
South Korea has proposed that the reunions be held monthly from March to November next year, but South Korean media reports said North Korea wanted to limit them to three or four per year.
Seoul used to provide 300,000 to 400,000 tons of rice to the impoverished North annually but stopped large-scale aid in 2008 when conservative President Lee Myung Bak took office and demanded that any further aid be linked to North Korea fulfilling its promises to denuclearize.
Tensions have been running high between the Koreas since the sinking of a South Korean navy vessel in March, in which 46 sailors died and which Seoul blames on the North. Pyongyang denies any involvement.
Ties have thawed slightly recently with South Korea sending its northern neighbour 5,000 tons of rice in emergency aid to flood-stricken areas this week and the breakthrough in allowing family reunions to resume.
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