ROK promises 'flexibility' in DPRK policy

Updated: 2011-10-11 09:20

(China Daily)

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SEOUL / BEIJING - Republic of Korea (ROK) President Lee Myung-bak promised "flexibility" on Monday in his policy on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), in a possible sign of a softer approach toward Pyongyang aimed at easing longstanding tensions.

Lee made the comments a day before he was to leave for Washington for a summit later this week with US President Barack Obama. "The government will exercise flexibility for the peaceful resolution of North Korea's (the DPRK's) nuclear problem while pursuing principled dialogue," Lee told parliament in a budget speech read by his prime minister.

He also offered humanitarian aid to the DPRK.

In August, Lee appointed Yu Woo-ik as unification minister in charge of cross-border ties, replacing a hardliner. Yu has also promised "flexibility", but the president is not thought to have used the term in the past.

"The government will make efforts to put inter-Korean relations on a normal footing and continue to prepare for peaceful unification," Lee said.

Lee's decision to send a message about policy flexibility shows the various pressures that are mounting on him, said Piao Jianyi, director of the Center of Korean Peninsula Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The pressure from Washington policymakers and Lee's own determination for a decent ending to his presidency are among the factors behind his promise for "flexibility", Piao said.

Relations between Pyongyang and Seoul soured after Lee took office in early 2008 and linked major aid to progress of the DPRK's nuclear disarmament, a policy which enraged Pyongyang.

Ties turned icy after Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a warship in March last year, killing 46 onboard. The DPRK denied involvement.

AFP-China Daily