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Korea talks end with little progress made

SEOUL — The highest-level talks between the rival Koreas in years ended late Wednesday with little progress because of North Korea’s call for the delay of annual military drills between Seoul and Washington set for this month, officials said.

Seoul officials said the meeting was requested by North Korea, which has launched a recent charm offensive after raising tensions last spring with repeated threats to fire nuclear-tipped missiles against Seoul and Washington.

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This month, the two Koreas are to hold reunions of families separated since the 1950-53 Korean War. It would be the first such reunions in more than three years.

During Wednesday’s meeting, South Korea stressed to North Korea that the smooth arrangement of the scheduled family reunions is a first step toward improving inter-Korean ties, according to a statement issued early Thursday by the South’s Unification Ministry.

North Korea also demanded South Korea delay the annual military drills set to begin Feb. 24 with the United States until the end of the family reunions, which are scheduled to start Feb. 20 and end five days later, the statement said.

South Korea refused, saying it cannot link a humanitarian matter to a military issue. The drills, which Pyongyang claims are preparations for an invasion but the allies call routine, are to end in mid-April.

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