08/08/2007, 00.00
NORTH KOREA - SOUTH KOREA
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Historic summit between the two Koreas at the end of August

The meeting, called for at the end of the month in Pongyang, aims to contribute to “the beginning of an era of peace” between the two countries. A positive outcome from the talks would increase consensus for the South Korean president ahead of December elections.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At the end of August the leaders of the two Koreas will meet.  The summit was announced this morning and is of historic importance:  the second ever meeting between the two states would usher in improved ties and reconciliation between the two sides, who remain technically ‘at war’. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun will meet North Korea's Kim Jong-il in the North's capital, Pyongyang, from 28-30 August.

This summit comes amid a gradual improvement in North Korea's ties with the outside world.

Last month, the communist nation shut down its main Yongbyon reactor as part of an international aid-for-disarmament deal aimed at ending its nuclear programme.  The meeting was finally agreed after senior South Korean NIS intelligence personnel made two trips to the North.

 

South Korea's presidential office said that the summit would "contribute to substantially opening the era of peace and prosperity between the two Koreas".  North Korean state news agency KCNA, meanwhile, said it would be "of weighty significance in opening a new phase of peace on the Korean Peninsula".  The two sides will formalise an agenda for the summit at preparatory meetings in the border city of Kaesong, where the two Koreas jointly run an industrial park.

The two Koreas have not signed a formal peace agreement since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, but in the interim relations between the two states have improved: since 2000, joint economic projects have begun and reunion meetings for families divided by the partitioning of the Korean Peninsula in 1953 have been initiated.

The upcoming meeting will be a boost to the increasingly unpopular South Korean president, who is approaching the end of his term: Presidential elections are due in December and Roh Moo-hyun is not currently enjoying public favour.  The opposition Grand National Party - which advocates a tougher line towards North Korea - is leading in the polls.

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