South Korea on Wednesday (June 12) started dismantling the venue set up for discussions with its isolated neighbour North Korea, after planned high-level talks between the two countries were scrapped.
Plans for the talks after a six-year hiatus were cancelled on Tuesday (June 11), South Korean government officials said, over a seemingly minor disagreement over the diplomatic ranks of chief delegates.
The talks were due to be held on Wednesday. North Korea's earlier offer to hold them came as a surprise after weeks of threats to attack the South and the United States in March and April.
The talks offer came as the North was apparently seeking to reopen lucrative business deals and the South was trying to mend ties with its unpredictable and heavily armed neighbour.
Spokesman for the South's Unification Ministry, Kim Hyung-suk, told reporters that the North had told South Korea that the South's choice for its chief delegate for the talks, the deputy unification minister, was not appropriate.
North Korea had said the South's choice was a "grave provocation", Kim said.
For its part, South Korea had hoped that the North would send a senior ruling Workers' Party secretary known to be a close adviser to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as an indication that the North was serious about the meeting.
But North Korea sent notice that it would be a relatively unknown bureaucrat who would be leading the delegation, the South Korean ministry spokesman said.
The disagreement over the negotiators was reminiscent of seemingly minor details that in previous meetings became sticking points that derailed or delayed progress.
It was not clear if North Korea was withdrawing its offer of talks altogether and returning to hostile tactics but South Korea said it remained open for dialogue when the North was ready.
Presented by Adam Justice