US, SKorean leader to meet amid guessing game over nuclear stalemate
SEOUL - South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun announced a summit meeting with
US President George W. Bush next month as North Korea kept the world guessing on
its next move in the nuclear stalemate.
"We expect the talks to provide an important opportunity for the leaders to actively seek a peaceful solution as consultations among involved countries on the North Korean nuclear issue continue," presidential spokesman Kim Man-Soo said, according to the Yonhap news agency.
The talks bringing together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States have been in limbo since North Korea boycotted a scheduled fourth round in September last year.
The summit meeting was announced as Seoul lodged a protest with Japan after a Japanese official said Washington no longer trusted South Korea and Japan was reluctant to share North Korea-related intelligence with its neighbour.
Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi made the remarks to visiting South Korean lawmakers in Tokyo earlier this month, according to one of the lawmakers who attended the meeting.
"As the United States does not place enough trust in South Korea, we cannot but be cautious about sharing intelligence with Seoul," Yachi was quoted as saying by Park Jin, a senior lawmaker with the opposition Grand National Party.
The Japanese official said the six-party talks were failing because Seoul seemed to be siding with North Korea.
"The reason is that the United States and Japan are on the right while China and North Korea on the left as South Korea, which used to be in the middle, appears to be moving to the left. This is quite worrisome," Yachi said.
Differences over how to handle the North Korean nuclear standoff have created a rift between Seoul and Washington. Seoul has pursued engagement with the Stalinist state and joined China in opposing plans to pressure Pyongyang while Washington has sought a harder line, including seeking to refer North Korea to the UN Security Council.
North Korea has raised the stakes in recent months by declaring it had nuclear weapons in February and claiming it had unloaded 8,000 spent fuel rods from its reactor that can be reprocessed into weapons-grade plutonium.
However, North Korea has denied reports it is preparing to conduct a nuclear test, according to a Czech parliamentary delegation that visited Pyongyang this week.
"North Korean officials said the reports of a nuclear test is nonsense," Lubomir Zaoralek, chairman of the lower house of the Czech Parliament, said in an interview with Yonhap after arriving in Seoul on Tuesday.
The six-member Czech delegation met with North Korean leaders, including Pyongyang's number two Kim Yong-Nam and Choe Tae-Bok, chairman of the North's Supreme People's Assembly.
Zaoralek said the North Koreans reassured him Pyongyang was willing to resolve the crisis peacefully but was still reluctant to rejoin six-way talks.
Chinese President Hu Jintao believes six-party talks were unlikely to resume any time soon, Yonhap said.
"There will be some difficulty for some time for the six-party talks to resume," Hu told Park Geun-hye, leader of the conservative opposition Grand National Party, in a meeting in Beijing on Tuesday, Yonhap said.
Pyongyang and Washington are locked in a stalemate over North Korea's demands for concessions for shutting down its nuclear drive.