President says aid will not pave way to a summitSouth Korean President Lee Myung-bak insisted yesterday he will stick to his guns and not give aid to North Korea simply to facilitate an inter-Korean summit.
“I will never make any concession on that principle,” Lee was quoted as saying by his spokesman Park Sun-kyoo. “The summit between South Korea and North Korea may only be pursued under firm principles. It won’t be realized unless these principles are satisfied.” Lee made his statements before a cabinet meeting.
Last week, Lee told the BBC that he thought he could meet Kim Jong-il this year and his comment further fueled speculation of an imminent summit. It would be the third such meeting between leaders of the Koreas. Lee’s two liberal predecessors, Kim Dae-jung in 2000 and Roh Moo-hyun in 2007, also met with Kim Jong-il.
Lee’s words from yesterday can be seen as his attempt to break from the past. Kim and Roh were accused by conservatives of paying cash and providing rice and fertilizer to North Korea to set up their summits. By stressing he would honor his principles, Lee effectively denied a local newspaper report yesterday that the South would resume shipping fertilizer to North Korea before a summit.
While the Kim and Roh administrations supplied tens of thousands of tons in rice and fertilizer aid to the North during their time in office, Lee has maintained that there would be no unconditional aid and has linked any assistance to the North’s denuclearization efforts. Last fall, the South offered only 10,000 tons of corn. The North accepted the offer in January.
Presidential aides said Lee’s comments simply reaffirmed his long-held stance that he would not meet Kim Jong-il simply for the sake of meeting him and their summit would not be used for political or tactical goals. Lee has also said the summit would be meaningless unless it produced a substantial outcome.
The Lee administration has also stressed that if the summit was held, the nuclear issue would have to be on the agenda. North Korea, on the other hand, considers the nuclear standoff a matter between Pyongyang and Washington.
In the two previous inter-Korean summits, the nuclear issue wasn’t directly addressed. These meetings were focused mostly on promoting economic cooperation. The South also wants to bring home South Korean abductees and prisoners of war.
Last year, high-ranking officials from the two Koreas reportedly met in Singapore to discuss the possibility of the summit. The South government has neither confirmed nor denied the event.
The government has instead played down rampant media speculation about a summit. Senior officials at the Blue House have said no concrete preparations have been made for one.
Chun Hae-sung, spokesman at the Unification Ministry, on Monday denied a media report that a department director of the ministry met with a North Korean counterpart in Kaesong last year to discuss the agenda for a third summit. Chun said it wouldn’t make any sense for director-level officials to exchange ideas for an agenda when the summit itself hasn’t been scheduled.
By Yoo Jee-ho [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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