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North Korea calls off talks with South over choice of diplomat

SEOUL, South Korea -- Planned high-level talks between South and North Korea after a nearly six-year hiatus were scrapped on Tuesday, a South Korean government official said, after North Korea objected to the diplomatic rank of the South's chief delegate.

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As chief Asia photographer for the Associated Press, David Guttenfelder has had unprecedented access to communist North Korea. Here's a rare look at daily life in the secretive country.

North Korea's earlier offer for talks came as a surprise after weeks of bombastic threats to obliterate the South and launch a nuclear strike against the United States.

Kim Hyung-suk, a spokesman for the South's Unification Ministry, told reporters that North Korea 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 of delegate was a "grave provocation," Kim said.

"Our government regrets North Korea's position," the South Korean spokesman said.

The talks scheduled for Wednesday would have been their first high-level talks in nearly six years. The North is seeking to reopen lucrative business deals and the South is trying to mend ties with its unpredictable and heavily armed neighbor.

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