South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun to meet with Kim Jong-il

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun

South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun left Seoul yesterday to meet with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il to discuss the future of the divided peninsula. Although the 1950–1953 Korean War between the two sides has never formally ended, the meeting may prepare the ground for a permanent truce. The meeting is only the second summit between the two sides. The first summit took place in 2000, and led to former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his Sunshine Policy of reconciliation with the North.

"How to make peace take root on the Korean Peninsula will be the top-priority agenda item for the summit," Roh said in a speech on Monday. He added that "It will not be an uneventful course, but once discussions on a peace regime get under way in earnest, we can take up building military confidence and a peace treaty, and furthermore the issue of arms reduction." Roh said that the top item on his agenda was establishing greater peace along the border between the two countries.

South Korea has only limited ability to seek a peace treaty because it was not a signatory to the ceasefire that ended the Korean War, which was signed by U.S.-led forces. "I do not believe that the peace regime could be actually resolved through the two parties alone," South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung said at a news conference in Seoul. United States President George W. Bush has said that he would be willing to discuss a peace treaty if North Korea were to give up its atomic arms.

One issue that is not part of the summit's agenda is North Korea's nuclear program, which is the subject of ongoing talks between multiple nations. South Korean officials also do not intend to discuss North Korea's widely-criticized human rights record.