Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mountain to go to Mohammed

After months of hemming and hawing about how he would not go to North Korea and meet with Dear Leader Kim Jong-il for a "meaningless summit," South Korean President Lee Myungbak announced on Friday, local time, that he indeed will go to Pyongyang to meet KJI in an effort to resolve the nuclear crisis. Including the AP (below), the story is carried by AFP and of course Yonhap.

From AP via WaPo:
South Korea's president announced Friday he is willing to meet North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il in order to resolve the nuclear stand off on the divided peninsula and tackle other thorny issues.

President Lee Myung-bak in a live television address late Friday suggested an inter-Korean summit could be held to try to improve relations, which have been strained since the conservative politician took office last year.

"I have no political reason to hold a summit (with Kim), but I can meet him at anytime if it will help convince North Korea to give up its nuclear programs and resolve humanitarian issues," Lee said, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

North Korea's Kim has held summits with the South twice: the first in 2000 with then-President Kim Dae-jung and the other in 2007 with then-President Roh Moo-hyun.

"I think it does not have to be held within the territory of South Korea if such a summit will help resolve such issues," said Lee. "Because the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is such an important issue, I plan to meet (Kim) at anytime and anywhere, as long as our objective of such a summit will be achieved."

North Korea pulled out of six-party nuclear disarmament talks in April. The negotiations involve the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

North and South Korea fought the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving them still technically at war.
The only other South Korean leaders to hold a summit with either the Dear Leader or his father were leftist or left-leaning, but Lee is a right-wing conservative whose party has always loathed not just the North Korean leadership but also those who sought to embrace them. I wonder, then, if we will see a smile on his face, à la Roh Moohyun, Kim Daejung, or even Jimmy Carter, or will we see a somber look, à la Bill Clinton. When it comes to summits, Lee is a smiler, that's for sure, so he probably can't help but crack a smile. But still, it's Kim Jong-il... I'd want to deck the guy, and I'm not a violent person.

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