02/02/2006, 00.00
South Korea
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Kim Dae-jung wishes to return to Pyongyang

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young

The ex South Korean president and author of the profitable "Sunshine" policy wants to make the  journey by train to encourage the reopening of railway links.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - Kim Dae-jung ex South Korean president warmly accepted an invitation extended by Northern leader Kim Yong-il to return to Pyongyang. Kim, 82, said that weather and health permitting, he would like to meet Kim Jong-il again to discuss peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Kim had considered travelling to the North by car, bus or plane since the railway linking Seoul and Sinuiju, which passes Pyongyang, has yet to open despite an agreement struck in previous talks.

But in an interview with local daily Segye Times Tuesday, Kim said he hoped his request to visit by train would spur the North into action.

''I especially hope to visit the North by train as I am very interested in the opening of those railway lines,'' Kim said.

He added that high-level, South Korean government officials also suggested the train ride.

The South has been pushing to open the railways across the world's most heavily fortified border, while the North has been dragging its feet over taking the necessary military-related security measures for it to happen.

The ministry official said the two Koreas will continue to discuss the issue at the inter-Korean economic talks with another working-level contact this month.

Construction and rebuilding train stations in the North are expected to be complete next month, according to the official.

Both South and North Korean government officials have shown keen interest in a meeting between the former president and the NK leader.

President Roh Moo-hyun and former Unification Minister Chung Dong-young expressed their support for the visit.

During their visit to Seoul last year, members of a North Korean government delegation also reiterated the North Korean leader's invitation to Kim.

'''d like to speak heart-to-heart on issues like how to respond to the United States, how to resolve the problems with Japan, how to respond to the international criticism against North Korea, ways to establish the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programs as a permanent consultation table, and about the task of peaceful cooperation and reunification of the Korean people in the 21st century,'' the Sunshine Policy maker said.

In the interview with Segye Times, however, Kim said that he is not in the position to bring results on the six-party talks, which have stalled in recent months over U.S. accusations the North Korean regime is involved in illegal financial activities, such as counterfeiting and money laundering.

''The issue of the six-party talks is one for President Roh and (the North's) National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il to talk about and seek an agreement,'' the former president said, apparently mentioning the possibility of a second inter-Korean summit. ''I'm just thinking that I should do something helpful.''

During their meeting in Pyongyang in June 2000, the two Kims agreed to hold a second round of inter-Korean summit talks in the South, but the North Korean leader has not yet come.

The former president made some critical remarks on the U.S. attitude in the six-party talks.

''I don't think the United States has direct evidence of North Korea's counterfeiting,'' he said. ''I'm not sure if it's a coincidence or due to a push from U.S. conservatives that the United States raised the issue right after the successful six-party talks last September, as if pouring cold water.''

Things should not be handled in a way that impedes the six-party talks, he said.

''The (South Korean) government is hoping the visit will be carried out, and we will actively support it when it gets underway.'

Former President Kim Dae-jung became Novel Prize winner for his ''sunshine policy'' of engagement toward the North, which culminated in the first-ever inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang in 2000

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