Kim unlikely to accept Lee’s offer

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Kim unlikely to accept Lee’s offer

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak brief the media after a meeting in Berlin, Monday. [AP/YONHAP]


President Lee Myung-bak said Monday that Kim Jong-il would be invited to the nuclear security summit in South Korea next year if the North Korean leader agreed to renounce nuclear weapons.

“If North Korea agrees with the international community to give up nuclear weapons in a sincere and firm manner, I will invite North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to the nuclear security summit in March next year,” Lee said in Berlin after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The nuclear security summit, initiated by the U.S., is aimed at coordinating ways to prevent nuclear proliferation.

The leaders of around 50 countries will gather at the second summit in Seoul on March 26.

Lee had said at the inaugural summit in Washington in April last year that he would consider inviting North Korea if the North demonstrated a clear will to abandon its nuclear ambitions through the six-party talks.

This time, it is an official offer, Lee said.

Lee’s offer came as both Koreas are expressing willingness to meet the other party in talks, but differ on how to take the next step and what to discuss in the talks.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry proposed inter-Korean nuclear talks in January as a first step toward the resumption of the six-party talks to shut down Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

Pyongyang has yet to officially respond, but it indirectly proposed an inter-Korean summit in a message transmitted by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter after he visited Pyongyang and Seoul last month.

Some observers see a very low chance that the North would renounce its nuclear program to gain membership in the nuclear security summit, although that would be Kim Jong-il’s first international gathering.

“I think this is a good opportunity for North Korea, which it should seize to join the international community,” Lee said in Germany.

The South’s demand for an apology from the North for two attacks last year also makes it hard for the North to accept Lee’s offer, analysts said.

The North acknowledges the shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island last November, but claims it was in self-defense. It denies any involvement in the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March 2010.

Lee said an apology from the North for the attacks is a precondition for inter-Korean talks, six-party talks and an invitation to the nuclear security summit.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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