Military talks between the North and South Koreas have ‘collapsed’, a unification ministry official in Seoul said, dealing a setback to efforts to defuse tensions on the divided peninsula.

‘The talks have collapsed; they haven't even agreed a date for their next meeting,’ the official told Reuters, referring to the first talks between the neighbours since the North attacked a South Korean island in November.

Colonels from the two Koreas, still technically at war because an armistice not a treaty ended the 1950-53 Korean War, had met at the truce village of Panmunjom to set the time and agenda for more senior dialogue.

South Korea demanded North Korea acknowledge its role in two deadly attacks against the South last year that killed 50 people, but the North refused to discuss the issue, local media reported.