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Koreas mark five years of renewed ties

- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2005

SEOUL -- North and South Koreans celebrated brotherhood with speeches in Pyongyang yesterday on the anniversary of a historic summit, even as the North Korean nuclear crisis overshadowed prospects for reunifying the peninsula.

There was optimism on both sides of the heavily militarized border on June 15, 2000, when then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and the North's leader, Kim Jong-il, pledged to ease tension and begin work toward unification.

Five years later, lines of communication between the North and South have improved, humanitarian efforts from the South have been stepped up, and joint commercial projects established.

But key summit promises remain unfulfilled -- not least of which was a reciprocal visit to the South by Kim Jong-il, whose isolated country declared itself a nuclear state in February.

The United States has approved a requested visit by a senior North Korean official to attend an unofficial forum on Asian security issues at the end of the month in New York, a U.S. official said yesterday.

The approval signaled a flexible stance over North Korea. Washington had refused to issue an entry visa when the same official -- Ri Gun, vice director of the North Korean Foreign Ministry's U.S. Affairs Department -- was invited to the same forum hosted by a private think tank in November.

Mr. Chung was expected to brief Kim Yong-nam, the North's No. 2 leader, today about last week's Washington meeting between South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and President Bush.

Officials said earlier that Mr. Chung would deliver a message from Mr. Bush and Mr. Roh, urging the North to return to stalled six-nation talks on the North's nuclear weapons.

Kim Yong-nam, president of the North Korean parliament, is the nominal head of state.

Mr. Chung did not directly touch on the nuclear issue when he met with senior North Korean officials yesterday, South Korean reports from the events said.

"The South and North must remove the obstacles to ending the Cold War on the Korean Peninsula," Mr. Chung was quoted as saying.

The man who orchestrated the Pyongyang summit and won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work, Kim Dae-jung, said this week that a nuclear North Korea ran against the spirit of reconciliation.

Mr. Roh, Kim Dae-jung's successor, told a seminar that the North could expect to see details of a significant aid package and greater flexibility in the negotiations if it returned to the talks, which have been on ice since June 2004.

About 300 South Korean citizens and 40 officials received a grand welcome in Pyongyang on Tuesday, pool reports said. More than 50,000 cheering residents lined the capital's streets to greet them as they marched in heavy rain to Kim Il-sung Stadium.