Lee: Up to North for breakthrough

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Lee: Up to North for breakthrough

Dismissing earlier media speculation that the Lee Myung-bak administration has been pushing for an inter-Korean summit, Presidential Chief of Staff Yim Tae-hee said yesterday that it is up to North Korea for a breakthrough to be made.

In a meeting at the Blue House, Yim told reporters that Lee has made clear his position during his recent trip to Vietnam that there will be no talks with North Korea just for the sake of talking.

“It means that we won’t be sitting down for talks just for the sake of formality, although there is no fundamental change in the North’s attitude and we expect that the meeting won’t bring about progress,” Yim said.

“The North must prove that it is sincere about making a change. And we all know what the direction of the change is,” Yim added.

The Lee administration has presented a series of preconditions to resume governmental talks with the North: an apology for the deadly sinking of the Cheonan, an apology for the shooting death of South Korean tourist Park Wang-ja and a concrete measure to prove Pyongyang’s willingness to give up its nuclear arms programs.

Unification Minister Hyun In-taek also confirmed yesterday that no effort is being made by the Lee administration at this point to arrange talks.

Speculation ran high about a possible inter-Korean summit to thaw frozen ties between the two Koreas after remarks last week made by the head of the National Intelligence Service, Won Sei-hoon.

During hearing at the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee on Thursday, Won was quoted by local media as saying, “It is necessary to make an attempt with a higher framework” to improve inter-Korean ties.

Both ruling and opposition party lawmakers who attended the session said that Won’s remark was an admission of the need to hold an inter-Korean summit.

Representative Hwang Jin-ha of the ruling Grand National Party, who was present at the Intelligence Committee hearing, told reporters that various efforts had been made by intelligence authorities to arrange a summit, but no progress was seen.

“Won also said that while dialogue with the North is available through the Mount Kumgang tourism and Red Cross working-level meetings, the issue of the inter-Korean summit is not something that can be decided through working-level contacts,” Hwang said.

Democratic Party Representative Shin Hak-yong added that he got the impression that the government was trying to hold high-level dialogue because a breakthrough is impossible through working-level talks.

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