October 22, 2009 08:51
A senior government source on Wednesday admitted that North Korea "now wants an inter-Korean summit." But when asked about details, he added, "No comment."
When an assistant U.S. defense secretary last week told reporters that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il invited President Lee Myung-bak to a summit, both Cheong Wa Dae and the White House denied it. But something seems to be afoot.
There is speculation about behind-the-scenes meetings between the two Koreas. Kim Yang-gon, the director of the North Korean Workers Party's United Front Department, took Won Tong-yon, a ranking member of the Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, along on a visit to China on Oct. 15-20, which was uncommon.
Won was among working-level officials who drafted the declaration after the second inter-Korean summit in 2007. He also drafted an agreement signed by the prime ministers of the two Koreas that year and has worked behind the scenes of major inter-Korean talks over the past 20 years.
Prof. Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University said, "The fact that Kim Yang-gon, the North Korean official in charge of South Korean affairs, was accompanied by Won suggests that Won was given some duties connected with inter-Korean relations."
A government official familiar with inter-Korean affairs said a task force has been launched to deal with entire inter-Korean relations and prepare for an inter-Korean summit, apparently consisting of civilians as well as government officials. Another source said the National Intelligence Service, the Unification Ministry and the Foreign Ministry are giving support to the task force.
Yet government agencies including Cheong Wa Dae have unanimously denied rumors about behind-the-scenes inter-Korean meetings, or have said that no government officials have attended such meetings.
Meanwhile, the government Wednesday said it will give materials and equipment worth W850 million to North Korea for the modernization of inter-Korean military communication cables, calling it "essential" for overland passage between the two Koreas (US$1=W1,179).
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