2 Koreas 'Met Secretly in Kaesong'

      September 13, 2010 10:37

      Senior officials from South and North Korea met secretly in the North Korean city of Kaesong in mid-August, the Asahi Shimbun said Sunday.

      The Japanese daily said one North Korean participant was Jang Song-taek, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's brother-in-law and vice chairman of the National Defense Commission. On the South Korean side, it said "senior officials in the Lee Myung-bak administration" attended the meeting.

      Jang is said to be the de facto No. 2 man in the North Korean regime and the guardian for Kim senior's third son and heir apparent Jong-un.

      Seoul in the meeting demanded that Pyongyang apologize for the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan to normalize the inter-Korean relations, and take concrete steps to denuclearize before it can get any economic assistance from Seoul. The North demanded that the South resume the conciliatory "Sunshine Policy" of the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations, the daily said.

      The daily enumerated recent signs of a thaw in relations, including the South Korean offer on Aug. 31 to give the North W10 billion (US$1=W1,165) worth of flood relief; the North's request on Sept. 4 for rice and building materials; the North's release of a South Korean fishing boat and crew on Sept. 7; and the North's offer last Friday to resume reunions of separated families.

      "It seems like a convergence of the interests of the Lee administration, which is looking for a palpable political achievement in the latter half of its term, and the North Korean regime, which is groaning under serious economic difficulties," the daily speculated.

      It added the U.S. "set improvement of inter-Korean relations as a precondition to the resumption of the six-party nuclear disarmament talks and has already told Seoul that inter-Korean dialogue could lead to bilateral talks between Washington and Pyongyang."

      But a senior government official dismissed the report as "unfounded." A Cheong Wa Dae official said, "An inter-Korean secret meeting would be nonsense in a situation where the North has not apologized for the sinking of the Cheonan. It is contrary to government policy to hold such meetings behind the scenes."

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