President says aid will not pave way to a summit

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President says aid will not pave way to a summit

South 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 [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]
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MB “원칙 충족 안 되면 성사될 수 없어”



이명박 대통령은 2일 “남북 정상회담을 위한 대가는 있을 수 없다는 대전제하에 남북 정상이 만나야 한다”며 “이 원칙을 양보하는 일은 없을 것”이라고 말했다.

이날 오전 청와대에서 열린 국무회의에서다. 이 대통령은 “남북 정상회담은 확고한 원칙 아래 추진할 수 있는 것이며, 그 원칙이 충족되지 않으면 성사될 수 없다”며 이같이 강조했다고 박선규 청와대 대변인이 전했다. 이 대통령은 “원칙을 지키는 것은 남북 모두에 좋은 것”이라고도 했다.

이 대통령의 발언은 윤증현 기획재정부 장관이 남북 정상회담을 화제로 올리는 과정에서 불쑥 나왔다고 한다. 윤 장관이 “요즘 언론을 통해 정상회담 관련 얘기들이 나오는데 국무위원들이 좀 알아야 할 것이 있느냐”고 현인택 통일부 장관에게 묻자, 이 대통령이 “통일부 장관이 답변할 정도로 진행되는 게 없다”며 대신 답변을 했다고 한다.

청와대는 이 대통령의 발언을 현 정부가 강조해온 ‘남북 관계 패러다임 시프트(변화)’와 연결 지어 설명했다. 박 대변인은 “과거 남북 정상회담의 이면이 공개되면 이른바 ‘뒷거래’가 나오는 사례를 보지 않았느냐”며 “정상회담 개최 조건으로, 또 정상회담 개최 자체에 대한 대가는 있을 수 없다는 의미”라고 말했다. 청와대 핵심 관계자는 “임태희 노동부 장관과 통일부가 나선 지난해 10월과 11월의 접촉에서 북한은 핵 문제와 관련한 진전된 논의가 이뤄져야 한다는 우리 측 주장을 무시하고, ‘정상회담을 하면 무엇을 해줄 수 있는가’라며 선물에만 관심을 표명했다”고 대통령 발언의 배경을 설명했다. 그는 “과거와 같은 패턴의 정상회담을 기대하지 말라는 메시지를 이 대통령이 북한에 던진 것”이라고 말했다. 북핵 그랜드 바긴(일괄타결)의 정상적 과정으로서, 실질적 핵 폐기 보상으로서의 경제지원은 가능하지만 회담 성사를 위해 돈을 주거나 경제 지원을 약속하진 않겠다는 게 이 대통령의 입장이라는 것이다.

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