Korea leaders to hold second-ever summit
( AP ) - North and South Korea announced Wednesday that their leaders will hold their second-ever summit this month, reprising the historic 2000 meeting that launched unprecedented reconciliation between the two longtime foes.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun will meet Aug. 28- 30 in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, South Korean presidential security adviser Baek Jong-chun told reporters.
At the only other such North-South summit, Kim met then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in June 2000, also in Pyongyang.
North Korea also released a statement confirming an agreement on the summit signed Sunday between the heads of the two countries' intelligence agencies.
"The meeting between the top leaders of the North and the South will be of weighty significance in opening a new phase of peace on the Korean peninsula," the statement said, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
"The second inter-Korean summit will contribute to substantially opening the era of peace and prosperity between the two Koreas," South Korea's presidential office said in a statement.
The two Koreas remain technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, but the 2000 meeting led them to embark on economic cooperation projects and hold reunions of families split by their shared border - the world's most heavily fortified.
Kim Dae-jung won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to engage North Korea through his so-called sunshine policy.
However, the first summit's achievements were tainted by later revelations that the South Korean government made secret payments to foster the meeting.
Kim Jong Il believed the timing was right for a second meeting due to the state of relations between the two Koreas and the improved regional situation, South Korean National Intelligence Service head Kim Man-bok quoted his North Korean counterpart as saying earlier this month. Kim Man-bok twice visited the North to arrange the summit.
Kim Jong Il promised in 2000 to make a return visit to South Korea for a summit, but it appeared security concerns made that impossible for this month's meeting. Kim Man-bok said North Korea had proposed Pyongyang as the venue and that Roh accepted it.
Kim rarely travels abroad, and leaves the country solely via train. The 65-year-old leader assumed power in 1994 after the death of his father, North Korean founding ruler Kim Il Sung who technically remains the country's president.
At the first summit, Kim Jong Il warmly greeted his South Korean counterpart on the tarmac immediately upon landing, showing a human side of the reclusive North Korean leader known for his trademark jumpsuit and sunglasses.
The summit comes at a time of optimism on the peninsula as North Korea has made strides in abandoning its nuclear weapons program, including shutting down its sole operating nuclear reactor last month in exchange for oil aid. The United States and other regional powers are negotiating with North Korea on a timeline for the communist nation to declare all its nuclear programs and disable the facilities.
The South's Baek said the summit would help achieve progress in resolving the nuclear standoff and in relations between the Koreas, including in the establishment of a peace treaty on the peninsula.
Under agreements at the international nuclear talks, the main countries involved in the Korean War - also including the United States and China - are to begin discussions on a possible resolution of the 54-year-old cease-fire.
The summit will also address confidence-building measures between the two Koreas' militaries, Baek said. Officers from the two sides have held a series of talks since the 2000 meeting, but the latest session last month ended in discord when North Korea walked out after the South refused to address the North's long-standing demand that the countries' sea borders be redrawn.
The two sides will work out the agenda for the summit this month in meetings at the North Korean border city of Kaesong, site of a joint industrial park that is one of the most tangible achievements from the 2000 meeting.
Roh, a former human rights lawyer who took office in 2003, has repeatedly said that he would meet with Kim at any time and any place and there has been persistent talk this year that a North-South summit was possible. The conservative opposition blasted such potential plans, however, calling them an election ploy ahead of South Korea's December presidential vote.
Roh, 61, is set to leave office in February and has seen his popularity plummet amid perceptions he has bungled handling of the economy and security policies.