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‘N.K. proposes inter-Korean summit in Jan.’

Group of retired world leaders to send staff to Seoul on Monday


A high-ranking North Korean official asked a group of retired world leaders to deliver to Seoul his government’s intention to hold an inter-Korean summit in January.

The Elders, which includes former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and former-U.S. President Jimmy Carter, will send working-level staff to Seoul Monday to convey Pyongyang’s message and then to North Korea.

The delegation will meet with South Korean officials from the ministries of foreign affairs and unification on Monday, diplomatic sources said Sunday.

“A senior North Korean official met with the key members of the Elders in August in New York and requested them to bring across to the South their intention for an inter-Korean summit in January,” a South Korean scholar familiar with the nongovernmental group was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency.

The North Korean official said he wished to see “an outline of dialogue” by the end of this year at the latest, according to the scholar who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The unidentified North Korean insisted that should the two Koreas decide to hold a summit, a certain Cheong Wa Dae official involved in foreign affairs and national security must be included in the South Korean delegation to negotiate for the summit.

The Elders decided to mediate for the inter-Korean summit after the meeting in New York and have ex-Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland, one of its members, attend the summit.

The Elders are considering a plan to have the inter-Korean summit in Sweden in a show of its independence and excluded Carter, criticized as a pro-North figure, from the process of pushing for the summit, according to the scholar.

“The exclusion of former President Carter shows its consideration of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s disfavor of the Elders and Carter,” he said.

Lee, whose term ends in early 2013, has reaffirmed his willingness to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il “if necessary.”

In April, a delegation of the Elders led by Carter made a three-day trip to North Korea.

At that time, Carter said he did not meet Kim Jong-il, but Kim’s written message was read to him by a North Korean official just before he and his entourage left the country. In the message, Kim expressed his intent to meet Lee at any time on any subject, Carter said.

“It is nothing new as the North has already proposed a summit through the Elders in April, and now is really not a situation where the Elders should interfere,” a South Korean official said.

“There is no need for help by a third party at this stage where Seoul and Pyongyang have held denuclearization talks twice and are seeking to improve relations with the support of neighboring countries.”

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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