N. Korea won't pick up phone after talks rift: South

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea played hard to get on Wednesday following the scrapping of high-level talks with South Korea, refusing to answer calls from Seoul on a recently restored inter-government hotline.

"We made an opening call at 9am," the South's Unification Ministry said in a brief press statement. "But the North did not answer."

A North Korean delegation had been scheduled to cross the heavily-militarised border on Wednesday morning and drive down to Seoul for two days of talks in the Grand Hilton Hotel.

They would have been the first high-level talks for six years, but were called off at the last minute on Tuesday evening because of a protocol row.

According to South Korea, the North had objected to Seoul's nomination of a vice minister as its chief delegate, saying it made a "mockery" of the proposed dialogue.

Pyongyang has yet to make any official statement on the cancellation of the talks.

Although no major breakthroughs were expected, the meeting in Seoul had been seen as an opportunity to improve relations after months of dangerously inflated military tensions and threats of nuclear war.

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