SKorean presidential limo crosses DMZ into North

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PAJU, South Korea, Sep 18 (Reuters) A South Korean presidential limousine entered the North today taking officials on a scouting mission ahead of the second only summit meeting between leaders of the two sides.

It was the first time a South Korean presidential vehicle had crossed the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone border since the 1950-53 Korean War, which followed the division of the peninsula at the end of World War Two.

''We will be checking the president and the first lady's routes so that their movement is safe,'' a security official at the presidential Blue House said before the trip, which will take them 168 km (104 miles) from the border to North Korea's capital, Pyongyang.

The meeting between South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was originally set for Aug.

28-30 but was delayed to Oct 2-4 because of flooding in the North that killed hundreds and left more than 300,000 homeless.

The officials' visit comes a day after South Korea said six-country talks on ending the North's nuclear weapons programme would not be held on Sept 19 as widely expected.

South Korean officials declined to confirm speculation that Pyongyang was upset that it had not received heavy fuel oil shipments from China this month under a nuclear disarmament deal struck in February.

North Korea has suspended operation of its Yongbyon nuclear complex and invited international inspectors under the pact in return for 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil from the South.

China has agreed to provide the second batch of shipments and the United States the third.

An S-Class Mercedes Benz sedan was among dozens of vehicles that crossed into the North on a four-day tour that will set the stage for the summit.

For the first summit in 2000, then president Kim Dae-jung flew to outside Pyongyang and rode with the North Korean leader into the capital.

Roh has said he would discuss beginning talks for a permanent peace treaty to replace the fraying truce that ended the Korean War. He also said the meeting will help the Cold War foes develop common economic interests by trying to build ''an economic community''.

Analysts expect Seoul will offer massive economic aid to repair the North's broken economy, further hit this year by the widespread flooding.

REUTERS SS DS1116

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