North Korea Claims South Secretly Offered Series of Summits

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 7:55 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

North Korea says it has turned down a secret proposal from its southern neighbor for a series of three summit meetings to be held over the next 10 months.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency reported the offer Wednesday, saying it was made on May 9 at a previously undisclosed meeting in Beijing. It named three senior South Korean officials who, it said, took part in the meeting.

South Korea's Unification Ministry dismissed the report as a unilateral assertion that did not require a response. It said the North Korean attitude will not help the relationship between the two countries.

KCNA said the meeting was confirmed by the North's powerful National Defense Commission. It quoted a spokesman as saying its delegates told the Seoul officials there could be no meetings as long as the South maintains a hostile attitude toward the North and insists on an apology for two military attacks last year.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has previously proposed a summit with his counterpart, Kim Jong Il, but only on the condition that North Korea agree to give up its nuclear weapons and apologize for the two attacks.

The South lost 46 sailors in the sinking of the warship Cheonan in March 2010, and suffered four people killed when the North shelled Yeonpyeong Island in November. The North denies any involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan and insists the shelling of Yeonpyeong was provoked by the South.

In Wednesday's report, KCNA claimed the South Korean delegates proposed that the sides draft a compromise statement that could be seen as an apology by the South but not by the North. The agency also said the Seoul officials appealed to the North to keep the meeting secret because it could prove embarrassing for the Lee administration.

It said the group proposed an initial summit in the border village of Panmunjom in June to be followed by a second meeting in August in Pyongyang. It said the third meeting would take place in March 2012 on the sidelines of an international nuclear summit in Seoul.