Report: Koreas far apart over summit conditions

AP News
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Posted: Dec 20, 2009 3:40 AM

North and South Korea held a series of secret meetings to discuss a possible summit, but failed to reach agreement due to differences over food aid, nuclear tensions and other sensitive issues, a news report said Sunday.

The two sides held a secret meeting in October in Singapore and two follow-up meetings in November at a North Korean border town to discuss setting up a summit between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Yonhap news agency reported, citing unidentified sources.

The series of talks eventually broke off because the sides were far apart over conditions for a summit, Yonhap said.

It said the South rejected the North's demand for 100,000 tons of food aid in exchange for its agreement to a summit. Pyongyang officials, meanwhile, rejected Seoul's demand that a summit address the international standoff over the North's nuclear programs.

The North also refused to return some of hundreds of South Korean citizens believed held in the communist nation, Yonhap said.

Seoul presumes Pyongyang is holding 560 of its soldiers from the 1950-53 Korean War, as well as 504 South Korean civilians, mostly fishermen whose boats were seized since the war's end. The conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas still technically at war.

South Korean officials were not immediately available to comment on the report.

The two Koreas held their first-ever summit in 2000 between then-President Kim Dae-jung and the North's leader, Kim. The second summit was held in 2007 between former President Roh Moo-hyun and Kim.

Relations between the sides worsened significantly after Lee took office in early 2008 with a pledge to get tough with the North. In response, Pyongyang suspended reconciliation talks and most joint projects.

But North Korea has tried to reach out to Seoul since last summer in an about-face that analysts and officials say shows the North feels the pain of U.N. sanctions adopted to punish it for its nuclear test in May.