중앙데일리

President says it’s best if Kim Jong-il retains rule

Mar 05,2009
North Korea may enjoy some short-term benefits from escalating tension by preparing for a suspected missile launch, but such a provocative action will play against Pyongyang in the long run, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said yesterday.

In an interview with the Australian media, Lee said, “North Korea has taken such actions as firing a missile in the past at times that it sees as appropriate, and I believe it is again trying to take such a strong action because a new U.S. administration has been inaugurated and another round of the six-nation talks could be held in the near future. Such tough action may place North Korea in a better position in negotiations, but in the long run they will not be so rewarding to North Korea in the international community.”

Lee also made a rare, direct comment about the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s health. Kim is believed to be recovering from a stroke he suffered in August.

“It appears from Chairman Kim’s recent activities that there are no serious obstacles for him to continue ruling North Korea, and I think it is better to have a stabilized North Korean regime at this point in time for inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation,” Lee said.

The interview with the Australian media took place in Seoul before Lee departed for a tour of New Zealand, Australia and Indonesia. Lee arrived in Sydney yesterday and the full text of the interview was released by the Blue House. A summit with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is scheduled for today in Canberra and the two leaders are expected to declare the official beginning of their bilateral free trade negotiations.

The two leaders are also expected to announce a new security cooperation agreement, Australian media reported, adding that the accord, while short of a formal security treaty, will be similar to the one Australia has with Japan.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s newly-appointed Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said in Seoul that the North is continuing its preparations for a suspected missile launch, but an actual firing “is not imminent, and Seoul will do its best to prepare for any situation so that the people can feel safe and continue their lives.”

Hyun also said Pyongyang must stop denouncing the South. “The North must stop its criticism of the South, particularly the sensational insults on the president,” Hyun said, pointing out that the two Koreas had agreed to stop such language. “It’s a matter of common sense and basic etiquette not to condemn a head of state.”



By Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [myoja@joongang.co.kr]



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