Published June 13, 2005
SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea's (search) president said Monday he was certain international nuclear talks with North Korea (search) would resume and called for more flexibility in offering incentives to convince Pyongyang to disarm.
President Roh Moo-hyun (search) expressed his confidence at a news conference marking the fifth anniversary of the historic 2000 summit in Pyongyang between leaders of the two Koreas.
"The six-party talks are going to be resumed — I'm very sure about this," he said.
On Saturday, Roh returned from a trip to Washington where he and President Bush emphasized the two countries' common stand on resolving the nuclear standoff with North Korea through diplomacy — despite differences over how hard to press Pyongyang.
Washington has refused to offer any incentives to the North until it disarms and allows inspections, but Seoul has continued its economic engagement with its neighbor.
Roh said Monday that he hoped there would be "more flexible talks and negotiations" when the stalled nuclear talks resume.
North Korea has boycotted the six-nation talks — which include China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States — for nearly a year, citing "hostile" U.S. policies.
Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who met in June 2000 with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il at the first — and only — meeting between leaders of the two sides, said it was not time to push for sanctions on Pyongyang.
A South Korean delegation is heading this week to the North — contact Roh said he hoped would help resolve the nuclear standoff.
"It's time for North Korea to make a decision — by renouncing their nuclear program they have an opportunity to realize regional security and development," he said.
The 2000 summit raised hopes of reconciliation between the two Koreas, but despite progress on a few economic projects and limited reunions of families separated by the world's last Cold War frontier, the nuclear issue has prevented a further thaw on the divided Korean Peninsula.
"Of course, some progress has not been as fast as we expected and some people might be frustrated," Roh acknowledged Monday.
Still, he said Seoul would continue to engage the North.
"Even though the North Korean nuclear issue remains, I don't think it's a reason to stagnate relations between the two Koreas," Roh said.