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‘N.Korea Proposed Talks with Pres.-elect in Jan.’

Posted March. 05, 2008 07:17,   


North Korea is known to have offered in mid-January a meeting with then President-elect Lee Myung-bak.

A government source said yesterday, “At that time, North Korea conveyed a proposal via the National Intelligence Service to hold a working-level meeting prior to President Lee’s inauguration on Feb. 25.”

“The presidential transition committee rejected the offer, however, urging Pyongyang to specify its purpose for the meeting. North Korea failed to respond, suspending the contact.”

The source said Lee took a cautious approach to the proposal at the time since the intent and goal of the meeting was unknown.

The North failed to respond to the committee’s request to elaborate on the proposed meeting. Pyongyang abruptly suspended contact, saying, “Then we will talk about it after Lee takes office.”

On Jan. 21, the Unification Ministry in Seoul announced that the North postponed the first meeting of the Joint Committee for Inter-Korean Railroad Operation scheduled for Jan 22-23.

Pyongyang also halted visits by South Korean civilian aid workers to Mount Geumgang and its border city of Gaesong. This could have been a result of the rejection of the meeting in January, or nothing short of “retaliation.”

Back then, the source said, the transition committee kept the affair confidential with the utmost secrecy for fear of an adverse impact on inter-Korean relations.

Between his election as president and inauguration, Lee told the media that he could meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Il anytime if it would substantially benefit both Koreas.

But he also ruled out using engagement with the North for political gains at home. Experts said Lee’s refusal in January showed his reluctance to hold an “inter-Korean political show.”