Inter-Korean economic talks were in jeopardy yesterday after North Korea warned of "unspeakable disaster" for South Korea if it confronts the communist state over its suspected nuclear weapons programs.
North Korea made the warning Tuesday in its first reaction to a summit between US President George W. Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. South Korea strongly protested the warning, which it considered a threat big enough to stall talks.
The first round of the inter-Korean economic talks took place Tuesday in Pyongyang, but negotiators have yet to schedule the second round because of tension over North Korea's warning, according to South Korean media. The South Korean team had planned to be in Pyongyang until today.
Also yesterday, North Korea's state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the Bush-Roh summit's call for "further steps" against Pyongyang if it escalates tension "is a dangerous action that increases danger of nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula."
The newspaper, monitored by South Korean news agency Yonhap, said Washington and Seoul will be held responsible for any "unpredictable outcome" caused by any "further steps."
South Korea's chief delegate Kim Gwang-lim said South Korea "should not respond emotionally to North Korea's strong remarks, but we should not cling to talks with North Korea while throwing away our pride."
North Korea's chief negotiator Pak Chang Ryon said at the start of the talks that South Korea "will sustain an unspeakable disaster if it turns to confrontation, talking about `nuclear issue' and `additional measures.'"
The South Korean chief delegate called the remarks "something we cannot just pass over" and said inter-Korean projects could suffer if Pyongyang creates further tension over its nuclear development.