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Koreas signal a rare meeting

- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2007

TOKYO (Agence France-Presse) — The United States, the United Nations and regional powers yesterday welcomed the announcement of a rare summit between the two Koreas, saying they hoped it would help efforts to disarm the communist North.

North and South Korea said they would stage their second-ever summit later this month in an attempt to bring lasting peace to a peninsula divided for 60 years by minefields and barbed wire.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun will travel to Pyongyang, the North's capital, to meet with Kim Jong-il from Aug. 28 to Aug. 30, both sides said.

The United States said it hoped their talks would help fulfill the goals of the six-party talks on the North's nuclear weapons program.

"We have long welcomed and supported North-South dialogue and hope that this meeting will help promote peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, fulfilling the goals of the six-party talks," State Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore said.

The six-nation talks group the two Koreas, China, Japan, the United States and Russia, and are aimed at disarming the North in return for energy aid and diplomatic concessions.

Japan, which has long had tense relations with the reclusive North, said it wanted the summit, the first in seven years, to promote lasting peace.

But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also hoped that the summit would address a long-standing dispute with North Korea over its abductions of Japanese civilians to train its spies.

"The abduction issue is very important for Japan," said Mr. Abe. "We have to solve this issue no matter what."

Japan has refused to help fund February's aid-for-disarmament deal because of the kidnapping dispute.

China, one of North Korea's few international allies, said it looked forward to "positive results" from the summit.

China has a direct stake in Korean security, not least because it has hosted several rounds of the six-nation talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the two Korean leaders for their initiative, which he called a "significant opportunity" to promote peace.

Mr. Ban, a career South Korean diplomat who rose to serve as foreign minister from 2004 to 2006, was long involved in efforts to bring the two Koreas closer, and had a deep role in the six-party talks before taking the helm of the U.N.

The public reaction from abroad contrasted with the mood of South Korea's opposition Grand National Party, which called the summit a publicity stunt to give Mr. Roh's preferred candidate a boost in the Dec. 19 presidential election.

About 20 conservative activists burned a North Korean flag and sprayed ink on the portraits of Mr. Roh and Mr. Kim during a rally near the presidential office.