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South Korea leader says he's ready to meet Kim

North Korea is trying to emphasize that the peninsula remains a war zone : President Lee

South Korea leader says he's ready to meet Kim

South Korea's president says he is willing to meet with North Korea's leader to discuss its nuclear weapons program despite a recent flare-up in border tensions.
"I am always ready to meet with Chairman Kim Jong Il," President Lee Myung-bak said in an interview with the BBC aired yesterday, according to a text released by his office.
"There is no reason not to meet (him) even within this year" if it promotes peace on the Korean peninsula and North Korea's nuclear disarmament, he said.
Lee's comments came amid new tensions over artillery fire this week by North Korea near its disputed western sea border with the South. No casualties or damage were reported.
North Korea said the shelling was part of an annual drill and would continue. It has designated two no-sail zones in the area, including some South Korean-held waters, through March 29.
Lee has taken a tougher approach toward North Korea since taking office in 2008, worsening bilateral relations, but has indicated several times that he is willing to meet with Kim.
Lee's two liberal predecessors held talks with the North Korean leader in 2000 and 2007. South Korean news media reported last year that the two countries had held a series of secret meetings to discuss a possible summit, but failed to breach wide differences.
Lee also told the BBC that Kim's health has improved and that North Korea is facing serious economic difficulties, but said it is not on the verge of collapse. Kim, who turns 68 next month, is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008.
The western sea border has been a constant source of tension between the two Koreas. Their navies fought a skirmish in November that left one North Korean sailor dead and three others wounded, and engaged in bloodier battles in the area in 1999 and 2002.
Lee said this week's artillery shelling could be an attempt by North Korea to emphasize that the peninsula remains a war zone and push for a peace treaty formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War. That conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty, leaving the peninsula technically at war.
North Korea is said to believe a peace treaty with the U.S. would provide security and status, help ensure the survival of its government and give it a stronger hand against rival South Korea.
South Korea and the United States have insisted that North Korea must return to nuclear disarmament talks that it quit last year before any treaty can be concluded.
Lee also said North Korea's strategy of delaying a resolution of the nuclear impasse would not work. He said the North is not abandoning its nuclear programs but rather is offering gestures for dialogue aimed at avoiding economic difficulties under U.N. sanctions imposed over its missile and nuclear tests last year.
North Korea argues that it was compelled to develop nuclear weapons to cope with a military threat from the U.S., and has demanded the signing of a peace treaty and lifting of sanctions before it rejoins the nuclear talks.


Updated : 2021-08-05 16:24 GMT+08:00