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North Korean delegation asks to meet South Korean president

Video by Shirli SITBON

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-08-22

A North Korean delegation in Seoul for the funeral of a former president has asked for a meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, Yonhap news agency said, quoting an unidentified government official.

A North Korean delegation in Seoul for the funeral of a former president has asked for a meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, Yonhap news agency said, quoting an unidentified government official.

 

The visit was the highest-level meeting between the rival states in nearly two years.
  
"The North Koreans said they were carrying a message from (North Korea's leader) Chairman Kim Jong-Il," the official was quoted as saying.
  
Their wish to meet with the president was conveyed to South Korea's Unification Minister Hyun In-Taek on Saturday.
  
Hyun was talking to the president's office about the offer, the official said.
  

South Korean minister Hyun In-taek, who has been lambasted in the North’s media for the South’s hardline policy toward Pyongyang, met a high-level delegation sent by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the ministry said.


“There is a message just in holding the meeting,” Hyun told reporters ahead of the talks.


But in an indication of the North’s anger at the South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak’s government, the group will leave on Saturday before the state funeral for former President Kim Dae-Jung, who was awarded the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for brokering the first summit between the leaders of the two Koreas.


Relations chilled after Lee took office last year and effectively end Kim’s “Sunshine Policy” of engagement by cutting off a steady flow of unconditional aid to the North, calling on it to reduce security threats to the region if it wanted help.


Impoverished North Korea has all but severed ties with Lee’s government, which has cut off aid that was once equal to about 5 percent of the North’s estimated $17 billion yearly GDP.


The first dispatch of envoys to the South in nearly two years follows moves by the communist North this month to reduce tension after conducting a nuclear test in May, firing missiles and threatening to attack its capitalist southern neighbour.


The North’s rare conciliatory move could mean it wants greater contact with the outside world after being hit with U.N. sanctions for its nuclear test.


The North Korean delegation is scheduled to leave later on Saturday.
 

Date created : 2009-08-22

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