N. Korea postpones family reunions with S. Korea

North Korea on Saturday postponed planned reunions of families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War, as well as inter-Korean talks for resuming tours to the Mt. Kumgang resort on the North's east coast.

The two Koreas agreed last month to arrange the reunions of separated families, last held in late 2010, on Sept. 25-30 at Mt. Kumgang in a sign of a thaw between the two sides, together with the reopening Monday of an inter-Korean industrial park in the North's border town of Kaesong.

North Korea "puts on hold" the reunions of separated families and relatives from the two Koreas "till a normal atmosphere is created for dialogue and negotiation," a spokesman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement.

"It is impossible to properly settle any elementary humanitarian issue but only a vicious cycle of confrontation will repeat itself as long as the south Korean conservative regime is abusing all dialogues and negotiations as means for confrontation, regarding the north-south relations as hostile ties," said the statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

The unidentified spokesman criticized South Korea for conducting "war drills and arms build-up," both supposedly targeting North Korea, in collaboration with "its American master."

South Korea responded, calling the postponement "inhumane" and warning that the move would negatively impact inter-Korean relations, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported.

"It is very regrettable that the North unilaterally postponed the reunions," Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eyi Do was quoted by Yonhap as saying.

"The North's postponement shattered the thrill and hopes of nearly 200 families overnight and deserves denunciation as an inhumane act," Kim said, while urging the North to hold the reunions as planned.

South Korea had proposed that it hold talks with North Korea on Oct. 2 on how to resume tours to Mt. Kumgang that have been suspended since a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean guard in July 2008.

Pyongyang accused Seoul of denigrating tours to the scenic resort as a "source of money making" by the North, the statement said.

North Korea "will take strong and decisive counteractions against the south Korean puppet regime's ever-escalating war provocations to it," it said. "Dialogue can never go together with war."