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Koreas end Asian Games talks without deal

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Lee Chi-dong and Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, July 17 (Yonhap) -- Rare talks between South and North Korea on Asia's largest sporting event broke down Thursday, as delegates from the North unilaterally walked out of the meeting held inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ), officials here said.

The two sides even failed to set a date for the next meeting.

In the Thursday session, the North revealed plans to send 350 athletes to the Asian Games to be held in the South Korean city of Incheon from Sept. 19-Oct. 4. It also said it will dispatch the same number of cheerleaders.

An apparent deal breaker was who will foot the bill for the North Korean delegation's stay here during the period.

Seoul said its basic principle is to follow international practice, a break from its tradition of financially supporting visiting sporting delegations from the North.

The North took issue with the South's stance, calling it an "act causing the breakdown of talks," according to an official involved in the meeting.

"We express deep regret over North Korea's unilateral attitude," the official told reporters on background. "We hope North Korea's participation in the Incheon Asian Games will be realized."

North Korea demanded South Korea provide "a range of support" for its delegation without elaborating, he added.

The Thursday meeting marked the first inter-Korean talks on sports since 2008, when the two sides met for consultations on a joint cheerleading team for the Beijing Olympics.

Earlier in the day, an official at Seoul's unification ministry hinted at the possibility of some flexibility on the transportation issue, citing the unique characteristics of inter-Korean ties.

He said Seoul might allow a North Korean ferry, called Mangyeongbong, to sail here as transportation for its delegation to the Games.

Under tough sanctions on the North known as the "May 24th Measures," all North Korean ships are prohibited from entering the South. The restrictions were imposed after the 2010 sinking of the warship Cheonan that was blamed on Pyongyang.

When the North participated in the 2002 Busan Asian Games, athletes used a chartered plane, while the cheering squad took the Mangyeongbong ferry.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/yonhap-news-agency/140717/koreas-end-asian-games-talks-without-deal