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Korean leaders to meet in North

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2007

SEOUL (AP) — The leaders of North and South Korea will hold only their second summit later this month, the South Korean president"s office announced today, in a repeat of the historic 2000 meeting that launched unprecedented reconciliation between the two longtime foes.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun will meet Aug. 28-30 in Pyongyang, North Korea"s capital, presidential security adviser Baek Jong-chun told reporters.

At the only other such North-South summit, Mr. Kim met with then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in June 2000, also in Pyongyang.

The two Koreas remain technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. But the 2000 meeting led them to embark on economic cooperation projects and reunions of families split by their shared border — the world"s most heavily fortified one.

Kim Dae-jung won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to engage North Korea as part of what he described as his sunshine policy.

However, the first summit"s achievements were tainted by later revelations that the South Korean government made secret payments to foster the meeting.

At the 2000 summit, Kim Jong-il warmly greeted his South Korean counterpart on the tarmac immediately upon landing, showing a human side of the reclusive North Korean leader known for his trademark jumpsuit and sunglasses.

Kim Jong-il promised at that time to make a return visit to South Korea for a summit, but it appeared that security concerns made that impossible for this month"s meeting. Mr. Kim rarely travels abroad, and leaves the country solely via train.

The summit comes at a time of optimism on the peninsula as North Korea has capped its nuclear weapons program, including shutting down its sole operating nuclear reactor last month in exchange for oil aid. It has further pledged to take further steps in dismantling its nuclear weapons.

The United States and other regional powers are negotiating with North Korea about a timeline for the communist nation to declare all its nuclear programs and disable the facilities.

Mr. Roh has repeatedly said that he would meet with Mr. Kim at any time and place he chooses, and there has been persistent talk this year that a North-South summit was possible.

However, the conservative opposition blasted such potential plans, however, calling them an election ploy ahead of South Korea"s December presidential vote.

Mr. Roh is set to leave office in February and has seen his popularity plummet amid perceptions that he has bungled handling of the economy and security policies.