Roh sees arms cut talks for North and South Korea

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SEOUL, Oct 1 (Reuters) South Korea's president said today he would use the second ever summit between the leaders of the divided Koreas to press for peace and an eventual arms cut along one of the world's most heavily militarised borders.

Roh Moo-hyun will lead a motorcade from Seoul tomorrow, which includes business leaders, bureaucrats, poets and clerics, across the border and then on to Pyongyang for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il that runs through Thursday.

''It will not be an uneventful course, but once discussions on a peace regime get under way in earnest, we can take up building military confidence and a peace treaty, and furthermore the issue of arms reduction,'' Roh said in a televised speech.

South Korean officials have said they do not want to spoil the mood of the summit between the states technically still at war by pressing Pyongyang on its nuclear weapons programme or its widely condemned human rights record.

Roh said his top summit agenda item would be establishing greater peace along the Cold War's last frontier.

South Korea's ability to seek a peace treaty is limited because it was not a signatory to the ceasefire that ended the 1950-1953 Korean War. US-led forces signed the agreement.

US President George W Bush has said he is ready to discuss a peace treaty once the reclusive communist country scraps its atomic arms, which are considered one of the region's greatest security threats.

North Korea, which conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006, has stationed most of its 1.2 million-man military near the border with the South.

South Korea has about 670,000 troops, who are supported by about 28,000 US troops in the country.

South Koreans has lived for decades with the North's military threat. They also fear a sudden collapse and worry that the hundreds of billions of dollars it would cost to absorb its impoverished neighbour would wreck its own economy.

Conservative South Koreans have taken to the streets to protest against the summit, arguing Seoul should not provide massive aid to the North that they say will help keep its leaders in power. One protester set himself on fire and was later taken to hospital.

The first summit in June 2000 -- also held in Pyongyang -- broke the ice in the two states' Cold War rivalry and launched economic and humanitarian projects.

Officials said Roh might propose new projects to rebuild the North's dilapidated infrastructure and develop joint economic zones in the isolated state where its own manufacturers could further exploit cheap land and labour.

REUTERS SYU RK1236

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