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North Korea Says Family Reunions Will Be Halted

July 20, 2006|From the Associated Press

SEOUL — North Korea said Wednesday that it would halt reunions of relatives separated by the Korean border, and South Korea's president made his strongest comments yet against the North's missile tests.

The family reunions have been a key element of reconciliation efforts since the first and only summit between leaders of the North and South in 2000. More than 16,300 Koreans have met with relatives they hadn't seen since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The North said Wednesday that it wouldn't allow the reunions to go on because the South refused to discuss humanitarian aid at talks last week between the two Koreas.

On July 5, the North defied international opposition and tested a long-range missile possibly capable of reaching the U.S., along with six short- and medium-range missiles. The move prompted the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution barring U.N. member countries from missile-related dealings with the North.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun condemned North Korea on Wednesday for potentially sparking an arms race, but also cautioned other countries that provocative responses could raise regional tension.

"North Korea's missile launches are wrong behaviors that not only violate peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and increase tension, but spark an arms race that doesn't help anyone," Roh told a meeting of top security officials, according to presidential advisor Song Min-soon.

However, Roh said, "behaviors that create unnecessary tensions by responding excessively ... don't help solve the issue."

He didn't name any country, but previously he has criticized Japan for reportedly considering a preemptive strike against North Korea's missile test site.

In Japan, the Kyodo News agency reported today that Japan and the U.S. planned to deploy advanced Patriot interceptor missiles at two U.S. bases on Okinawa by year's end.

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