Talks between Koreas on Asian Games see no results

SEOUL, July 17 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea ended their first round of talks Thursday on the forthcoming Incheon Asian Games without being able to narrow their differences on key issues.

The working-level talks in the border village of Panmunjom came after the North said in May it will participate in the upcoming 2014 Asian Games in South Korea. The competition will be held from Sept. 19 through Oct. 4. in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul.

Despite their talks, the two parties failed to settle core issues including the size of the delegation and their respective contributions to the cost of hosting the North.

They also failed to agree on the date of the next meeting.

The South's chief delegate Kwon Kyung-sang tried to break the ice with a comment on the weather.

"There have been worries about severe drought these days, but there is news of timely rain today and tomorrow, coinciding with the arrival here of the North Korean delegation. Likewise, we expect good results from the talks," Kwon said at the opening of the meeting, according to footage released by Seoul's unification ministry. The morning session lasted about 70 minutes.

Kwon led a three-member delegation to the meeting, the first inter-Korean talks on sport since 2008, when the two sides met for consultations on a joint cheerleading team for the Beijing Olympics.

The North's chief delegate responded positively to his counterpart.

"If both sides promote mutual trust and understanding...the 17th Asian Games will be held successfully," said Son Kwang-ho, vice chairman of North Korea's Olympic Committee.

The country earlier announced its decision to send a team of athletes and coaches to the Asian Games, along with a cheerleading squad.

Among key remaining issues are transportation from the North, the cost of its delegation's stay here and the size of the cheerleading group.

The South had traditionally chosen to foot the bill for the North Korean delegation to travel to the athletic event on its soil.

Officials here, however, say the situation has changed.

"Our basic principle is to follow international practices," a unification ministry official said.

Participating nations in international sports events usually pay for the cost of their delegations on their own.

The official also hinted at the possibility of some flexibility, citing the unique characteristics of inter-Korean ties.

He said Seoul could allow a North Korean ferry called Mangyeongbong to sail here as transportation for its delegation to the Asian Games, slated for Sept. 19-Oct. 4.

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

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

Some observers say the North may suggest the formation of a joint entry at the opening ceremony and the creation of united teams for selected events.

South Korea remains cautious about accepting those suggestions, apparently out of concern that it could send the wrong signal amid the North's continued provocative acts.

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