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North-South summit talks open on discordant note, South's president says

North-South summit talks open on discordant note, South's president says

The two Koreas' first summit talks in seven years began on a discordant note Wednesday, with the South's president listing several issues on which the communist North's leader Kim Jong Il differed with his capitalist neighbor.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said Kim had taken issue with the pace of Seoul's actions regarding international talks on the North's nuclear program, that Kim had problems with the two countries' joint industrial zone, and that they even quibbled over semantics about efforts to mend decades of enmity.
"In some issues we did not share the same perceptions," Roh said at a luncheon with the South Korean delegation in Pyongyang after two hours of talks with Kim, according to pool video relayed to Seoul.
"We were candid and frank in engaging in the discussion," Roh said.
He said the North "may not be too happy about the pace in which South Korea agreed to implement certain measures" at international arms talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program. Roh gave no details, but he was likely referring to aid in exchange for disarmament.
Roh also said Kim had issues about the two countries' joint industrial zone in the North Korean border city of Kaesong _ one of the main achievements of the first-ever summit between the Koreas, held in June 2000. The South Korean leader has said he would seek this week to expand economic cooperation between the two sides.
However, Roh added: "What we would confirm was that we both had a firm commitment for peace, and a commitment toward change and to set a new direction for the future."
Roh and Kim were set to continue their talks later Wednesday.
As the summit started, Roh told Kim he was concerned about flooding in the North, where this year's summer rains left about 600 people dead or missing and tens of thousands homeless. North Korea delayed the summit from its original August date due to the disaster.
Before the talks at a state guesthouse in Pyongyang, Roh presented the North Korean leader with gifts including a bookcase full of South Korean DVDs, featuring popular soap operas and productions starring Lee Young-ae, believed to be Kim's favorite starlet. Kim, a cinema buff with a vast film library, has purportedly helped produce several movies.
Kim appeared animated and smiled repeatedly Wednesday as he greeted Roh _ a contrast from his dour demeanor Tuesday, when the two first met briefly at an outdoor welcoming ceremony after the South Korean president arrived by road in Pyongyang. At the only other inter-Korean summit, held in 2000, then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung flew to the North.
"President Kim Dae-jung flew to Pyongyang. It seems to be more meaningful that you crossed the Military Demarcation Line on foot," Kim Jong Il told Roh, referring to the cease-fire line dividing the peninsula, according to South Korean presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-seon.
"I was moved as I crossed," Roh answered.
The summit comes amid a hiatus in separate international talks on North Korea's nuclear program, as the six countries involved consider a draft agreement requiring Pyongyang to disable its weapons facilities by the end of the year. It shut down its sole operating reactor in July.
The main U.S. negotiator at those talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, told reporters Tuesday in New York that U.S. President George W. Bush had agreed to the draft. He declined to give details of its contents.
Hill said the other countries at the arms talks _ China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas _ were expected to approve it before it was made public in the next few days.
Once the agreement is signed, Hill said the reactor's disabling could be started "in a matter of weeks" _ rendering it unable to be easily restarted to make more plutonium for bombs. Next year, the U.S. wants the North to abandon its fissile material _ paving the way for peace talks to finally formally end the Korean War.
South Korea's Roh has also said he will campaign for peace at the Pyongyang summit. But it remains unclear what he could accomplish, because any treaty talks would have to include the U.S. and China, which also fought in the conflict. South Korea never signed the 1953 armistice that halted the three-year war.
Wednesday's schedule in Pyongyang was expected to be dominated by the leaders' talks, before Roh was slated to view an evening performance of the North Korean propaganda spectacle known as the "mass games." It was not known if Kim would also attend.
Such shows feature thousands of synchronized gymnasts performing in front of a mural, formed along the entire wall of a stadium by children turning colored pages of books.
Conservatives have criticized Roh for going to the show, which extols the purported virtues of the North's communist regime. The North has excised potentially embarrassing sections for the summit, and South Korean officials have noted other visitors have viewed the event _ including then-U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000.
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Associated Press writers Burt Herman and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, and Edith M. Lederer in New York contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-10-27 03:24 GMT+08:00