Two Koreas to hold summit this month

Updated: 2007-08-08 08:35

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung links hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (R)during a luncheon at Baekhwawon State Guest House in Pyongyang in this June 15, 2000 file photo. [Reuters]

Seoul - 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.

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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.

In Beijing, China hopes the forthcoming second summit would lead to "positive results," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao Wednesday.

"China has always been supporting whatever benefits peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia," said Liu.

As a neighbor of the Korean Peninsula, China has been supportive of the south and north for the improvement of relationship through dialogue, he said. And it also conforms to the fundamental interest of the 70 millions people of the peninsula, and conduces to regional peace and stability.

And in Washington, the State Department hailed the announcement in a statement.

"We have long welcomed and supported North-South dialogue and hope this meeting will help promote peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and fulfilling the goals of the six-party talks," it said, according to an official who read the response over the telephone. The official refused to allow their name to be used.

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 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.

At the 2000 summit, Kim Jong Il warmly greeted his South Korean counterpart on the tarmac immediately upon landing, showing a human side of the North Korean leader known for his trademark jumpsuit and sunglasses.

Kim Jong Il promised at that time 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 rarely travels abroad, and leaves the country solely via train.

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 nation to declare all its nuclear programs and disable the facilities.

Roh 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 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.

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