The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said Wednesday it would halt reunions of relatives separated by the division of the Korean Peninsula because of the Republic of Korea (ROK)'s recent refusal to discuss humanitarian aid to the nation, a harsh setback to reconciliation efforts between the sides.
At high-level talks between the two sides last week, the ROK had refused to discuss aid to Pyongyang without any breakthrough on the North's recent missile tests or nuclear weapons program.
The South's actions were "an act of treachery little short of sacrificing the humanitarian work between fellow countrymen to serve the US and Japan keen on applying sanctions," Jang Jae On, chairman of the Central Committee of the DPRK Red Cross Society, wrote in a letter to his ROK counterpart.
"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," Jang wrote, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
The reunions had been a key element of reconciliation between the two sides since the first-and-only summit between their leaders in 2000. More than 16,300 Koreans divided by the sealed border have met in such reunions since 2000.
The North said its move would affect both face-to-face reunions as well as family meetings via a video link between the Koreas.
The ROK's Red Cross expressed regret over the North's action.
(China Daily July 20, 2006)