North Korea on Thursday rejected South Korea's proposal for talks on resuming reunions for families separated by the Korean War.
The response comes one day after Seoul offered to meet for Red Cross working-level talks next Wednesday at the truce village of Panmunjom.
In a statement, the North said a proper atmosphere had not been created to discuss the reunion issue.
South Korea's unification ministry expressed its regrets and called on the North to reconsider.
"The issue of separated families is a task to be resolved between the two Koreas before anything else, without being tied to any other issues."
But the North did not completely slam the door on the South.
It said important humanitarian issues, like making the reunions a regular event, should not be dealt with by Red Cross officials
Experts say Pyongyang may want to meet for high-level talks to discuss a number of matters, like resuming South Korean tours to North Korea's Mt. Kumgang resort.
The two Koreas held their first reunion event for war-separated families in more than three years last month, in a move largely seen as the first step towards improving inter-Korean ties.
But since then, tensions have soared following Pyongyang's string of short-range missile launches in protest against Seoul and Washington's ongoing annual joint military drills.
"The unification ministry said it's currently reviewing what steps to take next.
But some experts don't expect the North to agree to talks until Seoul and Washington wrap up their joint military drills in April.
Hwang Sung-hee, Arirang News."