Wed, May 24, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Kim Dae-jung calls for resumption of talks on Pyongyang

AGENCIES , SEOUL AND BANGKOK

Former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung urged North Korea and the US yesterday to adopt a give-and-take attitude and return to six-way talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

The talks have been deadlocked due to Pyongyang's refusal to return to the table unless Washington ends a crackdown on firms suspected of aiding the North in illicit financial activities.

"North Korea must completely give up its nuclear weapons program, and in return, the US must guarantee North Korea's safety and lift economic sanctions. Such a give-and-take deal must be carried out simultaneously," Kim said.

Kim went to Pyongyang in 2000 for an unprecedented meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, paving the way for closer ties between the two Koreas. The former South Korean president won the Nobel Peace prize for the summit diplomacy.

He is scheduled to make a return trip to the North late next month and is expected to meet the North Korean leader again.

"We will be talking about how we can promote cooperation with the regional powers and, above all, how we can unify the Korean people," Kim said, adding he also hoped it would help break the deadlock in the six-party talks.

"For peace on the peninsula and for the unification of South and North Korea, we need the absolute cooperation of the US," he said.

South and North Korea, the US, Japan, Russia and host China reached a tentative agreement in September that would have given the North economic aid and improved ties with regional powers in return for dismantling its nuclear programs.

But no progress has been made to implement that deal, and no talks have been held since the last round in November in Beijing.

The chief North Korean envoy to the talks, Kim Kye-gwan, said last month he would not return to the talks until Washington dissolves a freeze on Pyong-yang's assets at a Macau bank.

Christopher Hill, the top US negotiator, said yesterday that Washington is ready to resume six-party talks with North Korea but made clear that Pyongyang must first renew its commitment to the nuclear negotiations.

Hill, who was in Bangkok for a regional meeting, questioned North Korea's commitment to dialogue.

``For them to hold up nuclear talks over some issues related to bank accounts in Macau, one has to wonder what is their level of commitment to fulfilling the September agreement,'' he said.

"We're prepared to go back to the six-party talks. I would be prepared to go today. My other colleagues are prepared to go back," he said.

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