SEOUL -- High-level talks between South and North Korea collapsed in acrimony yesterday, as the North rejected a South Korean demand to end missile tests and return to negotiations on its nuclear program and instead countered with a demand for more economic aid.
The failure, which ended the inter-Korean Cabinet-level talks a day ahead of schedule, came as China appeared to have made little headway in its own efforts to bring the North Koreans to the negotiating table and the United States and Japan called for the United Nations Security Council to act.
As it left the talks held in the South Korean city of Busan, the North Korean delegation accused the South of ``parroting" the American positions and warned that the South should be held responsible for ``unpredictable, catastrophic consequences in inter-Korean relations."
South Korea had criticized the launching of North Korean missiles last week, which prompted calls for tough UN sanctions, notably from Japan. Seoul urged the North to defuse tensions by returning to six-nation talks on ending its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
The North dismissed the South Korean statements. Instead, the North argued that its ``army-first" policy of increasing its military capabilities actually ``promotes the security for the South and benefits the general public of the South."
North Korea then asked the South to provide 500,000 tons of rice in food aid, as well as raw materials for shoes and textiles. Seoul said that discussions of food aid were out of the question.
``Have we asked for your help in protecting our security?" the South Korean unification minister, Lee Jong Seok, the chief South Korean delegate, was quoted as telling his North Korean counterpart, Kwon Ho Ung, on Wednesday. ``Nobody in the South believes your army-first politics is helping us. If you want to help our security, you should stop missile tests and your nuclear weapons program."
Also yesterday, Japan demanded a UN Security Council vote on sanctions against North Korea. The Japanese chief Cabinet secretary, Shinzo Abe, said in Tokyo, ``There is no change to our view that the resolution incorporating sanctions should be voted on promptly." Abe did not give a deadline for a vote, but said, ``We cannot be pushed around by intentions to diminish or delay" action against North Korea.
Later, however, the Kyodo news agency reported that Japan will adjust the wording of its draft resolution against North Korea based on a Russian-Chinese proposal offered Wednesday.
Speaking in Beijing, the US assistant secretary of state for East Asia, Christopher Hill, said yesterday that Washington was likely to allow more time for Chinese diplomatic efforts before pushing for a tough UN resolution. ``My sense is we're down to a number of days," Hill told reporters.
Hill made the comments as he was leaving Beijing to return to Washington without any sign that North Korea was prepared to return to the six-nation talks, and without any agreement among the Asian nations on what actions the Security Council should take.
``So far they don't seem to be interested in listening, much less doing anything," Hill said of the North Korean response to diplomatic overtures by a Chinese delegation which was currently visiting Pyongyang. ``I think the Chinese are as baffled as we are."
At the UN, China and Russia introduced on Wednesday a draft resolution on North Korea in the Security Council and asked the council members to consider it in place of a Japanese-sponsored resolution, to which they both objected .