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N. Korea rebuffs bid for family reunions

Says ‘mood’ isn’t right for talks on more get-togethers

SEOUL — North Korea on Thursday rejected South Korea’s proposal to hold Red Cross talks to discuss having more family reunions where relatives separated by the Korean War could meet their long-lost family members for the first time in six decades.

Late last month, the two Koreas held the first such reunions in three years, raising hopes for improved ties on the divided Korean Peninsula. But the North has since raised tensions again by testing several short-range ballistic missiles and rockets.

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In its latest such test, North Korea launched four projectiles from its newly developed multiple-rocket launcher on Tuesday, with one flying in the area of a passenger plane at roughly the same time.

The plane, a China Southern Airlines jet with 220 passengers on board, was flying from Tokyo to the Chinese city of Shenyang when it passed through the same sky off the east coast of North Korea that the rockets traveled, military officials here said. The plane flew at an altitude of 33,000 feet when it crossed the trajectory of one of the rockets that had flown by several minutes earlier, reaching a height of 66,000 feet, they said.

The North’s failure to notify international aviation personnel of its tests in advance was a “provocation that violated the norms of international air traffic and posed a serious threat to the safety of civilians,” Kim Min-seok, a spokesman of the Defense Ministry in Seoul, said Wednesday.

But North Korea dismissed the criticism, calling its missile and rocket tests “defensive actions” and boasting that its projectiles hit targets with precision while posing no threat to international air traffic.

On Thursday, North Korea told the South that the “circumstance and mood” were not right to discuss further family reunions, in an apparent reference to the joint military exercises the United States and South Korea have been conducting since Feb. 24.

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