중앙데일리

No Guess on Summit Date

Mar 27,2001

Lim Dong-won, South Korea's newly appointed unification minister, said Tuesday that no specific date has been mapped out for Kim Jong-il's planned visit to Seoul.

"Frankly speaking, it is difficult to speculate on the timing of his return visit as we have no agreement with the North concerning the date," Mr. Lim told reporters after his installation ceremony.

"When he invited the North Korean leader to Seoul during his summit meeting in June, President Kim had indicated to the North that the trip should take place in spring."

However, the top unification policy maker said that while the North's leader agreed to a visit, he only said, "at an appropriate time," as stated in the joint declaration.

Mr. Lim, who is widely known as architect of the government's sunshine policy, was appointed to lead the unification ministry Monday in a cabinet reshuffle aimed at underlining that South Korea would go ahead with its policy of engaging the communist North.

On his first day, Mr. Lim met with Thomas Hubbard, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, who had flown into Seoul for a meeting of the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group, including South Korea and Japan, that discusses policy on North Korea.

Mr. Hubbard is considered one of the strongest candidates to be the next U.S. ambassador to Seoul.

Analysts said Mr. Lim is trying to give the message that alliance with the Bush administration in approaching North Korea is important, and that coordination with Washington is vital to realizing the visit by North Korean leader.

At his summit meeting with President Kim Dae-jung this month, President George W. Bush expressed his "skepticism" about the North's leader and said his country would not rush into talks with Pyongy똭g.

"Mr. Lim, who has worked in posts from the Blue House to the National Intelligence Service, is likely to have a picture in his head, a blueprint that completes the sunshine policy of President Kim Dae-jung through a realization of Mr. Kim's visit to Seoul," a senior government source said.

Explaining that no specific negotiations on the visit have taken place with the North since a visit by Kim Yong-nam, the North's nominal head of state, was canceled late last year, Mr. Lim indicated that talks are taking place unofficially to pave way for the historic visit.



by Lee Young-jong




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