Roh says inter-Korean summit possible in August |
By Yoo Cheong-mo
SEOUL, June 15 (Yonhap) -- President Roh Moo-hyun said Friday that he can't rule out the possibility of his summit talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il taking place in the middle of August, judging from "reasonable forecasts."
Roh made the fresh forecasts in an interview with the vernacular newspaper Hankyoreh, while sticking to his previous position that an inter-Korean summit won't be realized without further progress in the settlement of the North Korean nuclear problem.
The president emphasized that inter-Korean relations are closely dependent on the nuclear weapons issue, and Seoul is incapable of resolving the problem without cooperation from the U.S.
"With the nuclear issues hanging in the balance at present, the North Korean leader has nothing to gain from his meeting with the South Korean president. It is not reasonable if we now try to resolve the nuclear problem through a summit," Roh said.
"Improvement in inter-Korean relations should go hand in hand with the settlement of the North's nuclear problem. Isn't it true that a rosy outlook for South-North Korean relations tends to heighten the outlook for the settlement of the nuclear problem?"
Roh said timing is important for summit diplomacy, and he will push for a summit with its timing in mind.
Asked to comment on former President Kim Dae-jung's recent call for holding a summit before the Aug. 15 Liberation Day, Roh said, "I believe he anticipated a summit prior to Aug. 15. Excluding the delayed settlement of the BDA problem, an Aug. 15 summit could be possible... if we make reasonable forecasts."
By BDA, Roh referred to the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia, from which North Korea has yet to withdraw its unblocked money of US$25 million because of procedural obstacles. Washington and Seoul said the BDA issue will likely be resolved in a couple of days.
Asked to speak on the upcoming presidential election, Roh said that peace and cooperation on the Korean Peninsula and three domestic issues, namely, political reform, media reform and easing of social bipolarization should be the most important issues in the presidential race.
"Regionalism-based politics must be abandoned and candidates have to compete in policies. The five-year single-term presidency is a very backward system, and has to be scrapped through constitutional revision," said the president.
"South Korea's next leader has to be fair, transparent and armed with clear principles and insight."
Roh then reiterated his determination not to heed the National Election Commission's recent request that he maintain neutrality in political matters, citing what he called the unconstitutional nature of the election law stipulating political neutrality of government officials.
The president said that the local media's objection to his government's plan to close almost all pressrooms at government ministries and agencies has stemmed from "some misunderstanding."
"My government's pressroom reform measures are aimed at helping upgrade the quality, objectivity and impartiality of Korean news stories to the levels seen in advanced countries. If the current quality is maintained, the public will eventually give the cold shoulder to newspapers and flock to Internet news media," Roh said.
Turning to economic issues, Roh said his government's real estate and anti-speculation policies can be evaluated as successful. "Real estate prices could rise further in the future. If so, however, that can't be seen as a normal economy. (The further rise) could be caused by excess liquidity in the global financial markets."
The president then vowed that his government would continue to mobilize all possible means to eliminate a real estate bubble stemming from the excess liquidity.