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Roh Says No North-South Summit Without Nuclear Progress


South Korea's president says it would be inappropriate to for him to hold a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il before multinational talks make progress toward ending the North's nuclear weapons programs. VOA Seoul Correspondent Kurt Achin has more from the president's annual New Year's news conference.

President Roh Moo-hyun quashed media rumors Thursday about plans for an inter-Korean summit.

Mr. Roh says he has not been planning a summit, saying such an event would only be possible after six-nation talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear weapons capabilities have been successfully concluded.

South Korea, Russia, China, Japan and the United States have been trying for more than three years to persuade the North to live up to its pledges to be free of nuclear weapons. They offer Pyongyang diplomatic and financial benefits if it does so.

President Roh urged South Korean media to offset what he suggested is distorting reporting about the communist North.

Mr. Roh criticizes foreign - and especially American - media for producing what he calls "painful" reports that create a bad image for North Korea.

There has been extensive international coverage of North Korea's poverty and human rights abuses, and its nuclear ambitions.

After North Korea tested several missiles in July and then tested a nuclear explosive device last October, Mr. Roh suggested his policy of uncritically transferring millions of dollars of aid and investment to Pyongyang needed to be adjusted.

The engagement policy enjoyed a peak of public support in the years after North and South Korea held their first and only summit in 2000.

Both the engagement policy and Mr. Roh himself have experienced a chillier political environment of late. Mr. Roh's approval ratings have hovered around 10 percent for months, and leading members of his Uri party have been defecting one by one. Most of the party membership is expected to defect into a new group not linked to Mr. Roh, when the Uri party holds its caucus next month.

On Thursday, Mr. Roh said if his party is doing badly with him as a member, then he should be the one to go.

He says it is better for him to leave the party than for other members to leave it because of the president. He says he will leave if party members tell him that that is their wish.

This is President Roh's last year in office. Candidates from the opposition Grand National Party enjoy a wide lead so far in polls previewing this December's presidential election.

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