North Korea said it wasn't sending its officials to Seoul for the two-day meeting that was to begin Wednesday because the South had changed the head of its delegation, Kim Hyung-suk, a spokesman for Seoul's Unification Ministry, told reporters in a briefing. The ministry is in charge of North Korea matters.
There had been hope that the talks on reviving two high-profile economic cooperation projects would allow the countries to move past a relationship marred by recent North Korean threats of nuclear war and South Korean vows of counterstrikes. But the collapse over what's essentially a protocol matter is testament to the difficulty the countries have in finding common ground.
South Korea had originally wanted a minister-level meeting between the top officials responsible for inter-Korean affairs, but Pyongyang wouldn't commit to that. The last minister-level meeting between the Koreas occurred in 2007.
When Seoul told Pyongyang on Tuesday that it was sending a lower-level official than it had initially proposed in preparatory talks, North Korea said it would consider that a "provocation," Kim said.
The cancellation of talks arises partly from misunderstandings that the sides have about who is equivalent to whom in power between their largely different political systems, Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea scholar at Seoul's Dongguk University, said.
"The two sides are offended by each other now. The relations may again undergo a cooling-off period before negotiations for further talks resume," he said.
North Korea did not immediately issue its own statement about the canceled talks.
The talks were set up in a painstaking 17-hour negotiating session Sunday, but the rivals had set aside the issue of who would lead North Korea's delegation. Kim said that on Tuesday, North Korea offered to send a senior official of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea as chief delegate, and Seoul said it would send its vice unification minister as chief delegate.
South Korea had previously proposed sending its unification minister. After it announced the vice minister would go instead, North Korea said it wouldn't send anyone and that "all responsibility is entirely on South Korea," Kim said. He added that Seoul is still open to talks if North Korea reconsiders.
The main goal of the planned talks had been to see if the Koreas could restore economic projects that were born in the "sunshine era," a 10-year period ending in 2008 when South Korea was ruled by liberal presidents who shipped large quantities of aid to Pyongyang as they sought to improve ties. The last of those projects, a North Korean factory complex run with North Korean workers and South Korean managers and capital, shut down this spring.
North Korea also wanted Seoul to restart an era of rapprochement by commemorating past joint statements on reunification and joint economic cooperation efforts. But Seoul balked at this; it has demanded apologies for past bloodshed before allowing such exchanges.
North Korea's interest in talks followed its longstanding cycle of alternating between provocative behavior and attempts to seek dialogue in what analysts say are efforts to win outside concessions.
After U.N. sanctions were strengthened following North Korea's third nuclear test in February, the country, which is estimated to have a handful of crude nuclear devices, threatened nuclear war and missile strikes against Seoul and Washington. North Korea has also conducted recent nuclear tests and long-range rocket launches.
Some observers believe Pyongyang was trying to ease ties with Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing as a way to win coveted talks with Washington, which it believes could grant it aid and security guarantees.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has made trust-building with Pyongyang a hallmark of her nascent rule, even as she vows strong counterstrikes to any North Korean attacks.
There was skepticism in Seoul about the talks even before they collapsed.
"We cannot be overly hopeful about inter-Korean relations, which reached a new low not long ago," the conservative Korea JoongAng Daily said in an editorial Tuesday. "We have experienced numerous setbacks during past talks with Pyongyang."
___ AP writer Foster Klug in Seoul contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is inviting law enforcement, labor and business leaders to the White House to show they support an immigration overhaul.
The White House says Obama will speak Tuesday about the economic and national security benefits of a bipartisan bill. The first votes in the full Senate are scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
Obama is highlighting the disparate groups that are backing the bill even though they've opposed each other on immigration in the past.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Tom Donahue will join Obama, as will AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Democratic Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio and Bush-era Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez also will be on hand. Faith leaders will be represented as well.
The bill creates a path to citizenship for 11 million people in the U.S. illegally.
The 29-year-old intelligence contractor said he knew the great risks he was taking in exposing a phone records monitoring program and an Internet scouring program designed by the U.S. government to monitor for threats of terrorism. In their communications, he referred to Gellman as "Brassbanner."
A series of indirect contacts preceded the first direct exchange May 16 between Snowden and Gellman. Snowden was not ready to give his name, but he said he was certain to be exposed, the Post reported Sunday night.
"I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions, and that the return of this information to the public marks my end," he wrote in early May, before making his first direct contact. He warned that even journalists who pursued his story were at risk until they published.
The U.S. intelligence community, he wrote, "will most certainly kill you if they think you are the single point of failure that could stop this disclosure and make them the sole owner of this information."
To effect his plan, Snowden asked for a guarantee that The Washington Post would publish — within 72 hours — the full text of a PowerPoint presentation describing PRISM, a top-secret surveillance program that gathered intelligence from Microsoft, Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley companies. He also asked that The Post publish online a cryptographic key that he could use to prove to a foreign embassy that he was the document's source.
Gellman told him the Post would not make any guarantee about what the Post published or when. The Post broke the story two weeks later, on Thursday. The Post sought the views of government officials about the potential harm to national security prior to publication and decided to reproduce only four of the 41 slides, Gellman wrote in his story about their communications.
Snowden replied succinctly, "I regret that we weren't able to keep this project unilateral." Snowden also made contact with Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian newspaper.
When Snowden was asked about national security concerns, he responded:
We managed to survive greater threats in our history ... than a few disorganized terrorist groups and rogue states without resorting to these sorts of programs," he wrote. "It is not that I do not value intelligence, but that I oppose ... omniscient, automatic, mass surveillance .... That seems to me a greater threat to the institutions of free society than missed intelligence reports, and unworthy of the costs."
On Sunday afternoon, as his name was released to the world, Snowden communicated with Gellman from a Hong Kong hotel room, not far from a CIA base in the U.S. consulate.
"There's no precedent in my life for this kind of thing," he wrote. "I've been a spy for almost all of my adult life — I don't like being in the spotlight."