South Korea denies claim by North it begged for summit

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 02, 2011 4:43 AM

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea denied on Thursday the North's claim that it had "begged" for a summit, trying to discredit a revelation by Pyongyang of secret meetings between officials and a stinging rejection of Seoul's overtures for talks.

Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said the contacts were aimed at extracting an assurance from the North not to repeat the kind of attacks staged last year that drove tensions on the peninsula to the highest level in years.

"We did not beg for a summit meeting at all," Hyun told parliament. "The basic purpose of the meetings was to get a clear apology about the Cheonan incident and Yeonpyeong shelling and to ensure similar incidents are not repeated."

North Korea has denied it was involved in the sinking of the South's navy ship Cheonan a year ago in disputed waters that killed 46 sailors. It has blamed the South for provoking the shelling of the Yeonpyeong island in November that killed four people, including two civilians.

The North said on Wednesday the South had proposed a series of summits during a secret meeting between officials in Beijing last month.

Hyun also denied the claim by the North's National Defense Commission that the South Korean officials tried to bribe the North to arrange for the summit.

North Korea has said it would end all attempts to deal with the government of Lee Myung-bak, signaling it would try to wait out the remainder of the conservative South Korean leader's five-year term.

Lee angered the North by demanding Pyongyang give up its nuclear arms program when he came to office in 2008 if it wanted to continue receiving aid from the South.

In a further move to sever ties with the South, the North said on Thursday it had revised a law overseeing a tourism project in a mountain resort on the east coast, stripping South Korea's Hyundai Asan company's monopoly to operate tours.

The fatal shooting of a South Korean tourist at Mount Kumgang in 2008 led to the suspension of the tours, which had been a lucrative source of cash for the impoverished North under two liberal governments in the Seoul.

At the start of the week, the North also said it was cutting two of the few remaining channels of inter-Korean dialogue.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)