Nuclear issue Korean summit priority -Kim Dae-jung

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WASHINGTON, Sep 18 (Reuters) Denuclearization will be the top priority of next month's summit between the two Koreas, former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung said toay.

Kim's successor, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il from October 2-4 in Pyongyang for talks that take place amid quickening steps to implement a six-country deal to halt the North's nuclear program.

''The upcoming inter-Korean summit between the incumbent President Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-il will also talk about the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, definitely,'' Kim Dae-jung told a news conference in Washington.

''That will be the top priority,'' said the former president, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his landmark meeting in 2000 with Kim Jong-il and efforts to promote Korean reconciliation.

Kim Dae-jung's emphasis on the nuclear issue differed from the summit vision expressed by Roh, who said he intended to focus on economic aid and building a peace regime to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. That conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically at war.

Roh told reporters last week that the nuclear issue was on its way to resolution and stressing it could harm the atmosphere of only the second summit meeting Korean leaders.

Kim Dae-jung said he believed ''both leaders will agree in the upcoming inter-Korean summit to strongly support the success'' of six-party talks grouping the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Under a six-party agreement reached in February, North Korea agreed to disable all its nuclear facilities and to provide a complete declaration of all its nuclear programs in exchange for energy aid and diplomatic recognition.

Kim Dae-jung mildly criticized US President George W Bush's refusal in 2001 to engage North Korea's Kim in support of Seoul's attempts to reconcile with North Korea. But he said South Korea ''will strongly support'' current the US approach.

''I hope and I believe that all negotiations concerning the North Korean nuclear issue can be successfully concluded before President Bush leaves his office,'' Kim said.

REUTERS SR BD2233

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