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Posted : 2007-08-10 18:05
Updated : 2007-08-10 18:05

Seoul, Washington Differ Over Summit Agenda

By Jung Sung-ki
Staff Reporter

With preparations for the second-ever inter-Korean summit underway in Seoul, South Korea and the United States have shown a different point of view on the focus of the landmark talks in Pyongyang from Aug. 28-30.

No agenda has been fixed yet. But Seoul officials hinted that the meeting between President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il will mainly address large-scale cross-border economic projects, centered on the South's investment in the North, beyond business projects pursued after the 2000 summit.

Washington, however, is concerned that such big-budget programs from the South will detract from the six-party talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear ambitions by giving the Stalinist state ``immunity'' to possible economic sanctions from the international community.

``I think the center of gravity of everybody's diplomatic efforts here really is in the six-party talks,'' U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday. ``That isn't to say that… South Korea should not pursue this engagement with North Korea.''

Analysts are more skeptical about the outcome of the Roh-Kim talks. Most of them say Pyongyang probably saw the summit as its last chance to secure a promise of large financial assistance from the liberal-minded Roh administration, whose five-year term is nearing its end.

Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, was quoted as saying by Yonhap, ``South Korean officials assured Washington that its engagement efforts would remain `one step behind the six-party talks process,' but now appear to be at least five steps ahead.''

On Thursday, former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan, Roh's political adviser, said South Korea would propose several joint projects to help boost North Korea's economy.

Lee, who visited Pyongyang as the de facto presidential envoy to arrange the summit earlier this year, referred to building an industrial park in the North's port city of Nampo, similar to that in Gaeseong, as one of the proposals that Seoul is considering.

He also said South Korea is likely to propose launching South Korea-backed tourism projects in Mts. Baekdu, Myohyang and Guwol, modeled on the ongoing Mount Geumgang project operated by Hyudai Asan.

Analysts anticipate that Seoul is seeking to divert criticism over a possible cash-for-summit scandal, seen after the first summit, by focusing on large-scale investment plans in public infrastructure projects.

The 2000 summit between former President Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il was historic but tainted by the later revelation that Seoul had secretly transferred $500 million to Pyongyang for the summit.

A list of Seoul's offers will include the provision of two million-kilowatts of electricity, renovation of the 170-kilometer Pyongyang-Gaeseong highway, improvement of facilities in Nampo port, the establishment of a 330,000-ton fertilizer plant and the installation of tree nurseries in major cities, government sources said.

In return, Seoul is to demand the establishment of liaison offices across the border and the regularization of defense ministers' talks, they said.

gallantjung@koreatimes.co.kr

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