National Intelligence Service chief Won Sei-hoon traveled to Washington last week to meet with his U.S. counterparts, a government source here confirmed Thursday, raising questions over what was on his agenda.
Won met with CIA director Leon Panetta to exchange information on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s health condition, the power transfer to his son Jong-un and the country’s food shortage among other issues, according to the source.
Panetta was previously scheduled to visit Seoul last October to meet with South Korean intelligence, foreign affairs and national security officials, but the trip was canceled due to early exposure.
The fact that Won made the visit last week when the CIA’s attention was focused on the Middle East over whether Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would resign suggests the spy chief had something urgent to talk about.
News reports of Won’s trip raised speculation that Seoul and Washington may be discussing plans for an inter-Korean summit to break through the stalemate between the South and the North.
North Korea unilaterally walked out of military working-level talks with the South last week, accusing Seoul of “scheming” in blaming Pyongyang for the torpedoing of the naval ship Cheonan in March last year.
A South Korean government official denied, however, any discussions for a summit between President Lee Myung-bak and Kim Jong-il.
“There are no moves as of yet for an inter-Korean summit,” he said.
“It would be premature to discuss a summit when we can’t even have preliminary dialogue with the North.”
Lee said in a televised talk show early this month that an inter-Korean summit was possible if Pyongyang showed a sincere change of attitude.
Lee reportedly told Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo during his visit to Seoul shortly after the North’s shelling on Yeonpyeong Island in November that he was willing to meet with Kim Jong-il if a summit could help resolve the situation.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com