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North and South Korea on Monday ended without an agreement a fifth round of working-level talks on resuming operations at a joint industrial zone in the North's border city of Kaesong, which has remained shuttered for nearly three months, South Korea's Unification Ministry said.
The South reiterated its position at Monday's talks that the North should ensure systemic and legal protection of business interests at the industrial zone and turn the zone into an international business zone, an unnamed Unification Ministry official told reporters.
In response, the North forwarded its own counter-proposal to the South.
The two sides agreed to hold the next round of talks on Thursday, South Korean officials said.
In the fourth round of talks last Wednesday, the North and the South laid the blame on each other for the failure to reach an agreement.
South Korea's head delegate to the talks said North Korea has "not shown positions that could be taken as progress" in the talks, while the North blamed the South for being "dishonest and insincere."
"(North Korea) has not shown a position different from its previous one, regarding measures to prevent the closure of the industrial zone from happening again, and the North's positions are poles apart from ours on other issues like measures to protect (South Korean companies) investment," Kim Ki Woong said.
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said the North side advanced proposals for normalizing operations in the zone including refraining from all political and military acts of hindering operations.
"But the south side took such very dishonest and insincere attitude as creating artificial hurdles" in settling issues, the agency said.
Operations at the joint industrial zone were suspended in early April when North Korea withdrew all its 53,000 workers, employed by more than 100 South Korean companies at Kaesong amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Pyongyang had cut off communication links with Seoul in March in response to joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises and the South's condemnation of the North's third nuclear test in February in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
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