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Incoming S. Korean President Hopes for Summit With North


South Korea's next president says he would hold a summit with North Korea if it would help get rid of the North's nuclear arsenal. As VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul, President-elect Lee Myung-bak also wants stronger ties with the United States.

President-elect Lee Myung-bak said Monday that a North-South Korea summit could happen after he is sworn in next month.

He says he can meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il anytime, if it would help persuade the North to give up its nuclear weapons programs. He adds the next North-South summit should take place in South Korea.

Both previous Korean summits have taken place in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, despite an understanding at the first summit in 2000 that the second would take place in the South.

Some South Koreans criticized current President Roh Moo-hyun when he traveled to Pyongyang in October for the second summit, a year after the North tested its first nuclear weapon. They say the visit bolstered North Korea's propaganda image of South Korea as a tributary state.

President-elect Lee said the agreements Mr. Roh made with Kim Jong Il at that meeting will be scrutinized in his administration.

Lee says the October agreements were sealed in principle, but lacking in details. He says his administration will study the implementation from a perspective of feasibility and the burden on South Korean taxpayers.

The October summit agreement pledges the creation of a joint maritime zone and massive South Korean investment in the North's run-down transportation infrastructure. Experts say implementing it will require billions of dollars in South Korean money. Mr. Roh's supporters say South Korea will be responsible for such costs anyway, if and when the two Koreas are reunited.

For now, President-elect Lee says he wants South Korea to draw closer to the United States - and that Pyongyang need not worry about that.

He says strengthened ties between South Korea and the U.S. will be a help to Pyongyang.

South Korea and the United States are partners in multinational talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. The diplomatic process would reward North Korean nuclear disarmament with energy, financial assistance, and improved diplomatic ties.

However, Pyongyang has so far failed in its promise to provide a thorough declaration of its nuclear activities. Mr. Lee's transition team says further stalling by the North could hurt North-South cooperation.

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