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S. Korean President Says Peace, Not Bombs, Will Dominate Summit

Kurt Achin

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has given his clearest indication of Seoul's agenda for a summit with North Korea next month. He says the talks will not emphasize the nuclear issue, but may seek a declaration of peace as a first step toward formally ending the Korean War. VOA's Kurt Achin has more from Jeju, South Korea.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun told reporters ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs will not be his top priority when he sits down with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il next month.

Roh says a formal declaration ending the 1950s Korean War and establishing a peace treaty are the main agenda items of the planned talks.

North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950. Three years of fighting were halted by an armistice, but in legal terms the two countries remain at war.

Relations thawed considerably when the two Koreas held their first and only summit in 2000. But North Korea has since declared itself a nuclear-weapons state and conducted a nuclear test.

South Korea participates in multi-national talks with North Korea aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear-weapons capabilities. China, Russia, the United States, and Japan are also involved, and another session of the talks is expected this month in Beijing.

Mr. Roh says it is those talks, not the summit between North and South Korea that should focus on the nuclear issue.

He says objectively speaking, the nuclear issue is being resolved, and the issue of peace is most important.

The Roh administration pursues a policy of engagement with North Korea that has transferred billions of dollars of aid and investment to the Pyongyang government.

Critics say it is the policy's leniency that has not only failed to prevent Pyongyang's nuclear test, but also makes it easier for North Korea to refuse giving up nuclear weapons in the future.

Experts say too many legal ambiguities exist for North and South Korea to formally end the Korean War by acting alone.

Following the North's 1950 invasion, the United States led a U.N. coalition that repelled northern forces back to the current inter-Korean boundary.

About 28,000 U.S. troops remain in the South to deter a repeat invasion.

Although China never formally declared itself a combatant in the war, hundreds of thousands of so-called Chinese "volunteer forces" fought alongside North Korean soldiers. The 1953 armistice was signed by North Korea and the United States, in its role as U.N. Commander. South Korea refused to sign.

Advisors and political allies of President Roh favor what has come to be known as the "two plus two" model for resolving the conflict. In that model, North and South Korea would make a declaration between themselves, and would then later be backed up in some way by the United States and China.

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