N Korea still doesn't trust S Korea: Roh Moo-hyun

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Seoul, Oct 4: The two Koreas, divided since the Cold War, end their second ever summit today but few expect more than vague statements on peace and curbing the North's nuclear weapons plans.

The meeting in Pyongyang had looked strained after a cool welcome for the South's President Roh Moo-hyun by reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and a rejection of Kim's invitation to continue their talks for another day.

South Korea insisted the talks had been a success and that the leaders of the two states, technically still at war, would issue a joint statement by about noon 0830 hrs IST.

The two will have lunch together before Roh drives back to the South, stopping off on the way at an industrial park funded by a South Korean company just north of the heavily-armed border guarded by more than a million soldiers on either side.

''Taking their political system into consideration, it is impossible to think that the talks involving the supreme leader (Kim Jong-il) himself will fail without achieving any results,'' said Paik Hak-soon, a North Korea analyst at Sejong Institute in Seoul.

''It's all part of North Korea's strategy for survival and prosperity in the 21st century and it includes normalisation of relations with both South Korea and the United States.'' Many analysts say once Pyongyang establishes ties with Washington, that will end its status as an international pariah and allow it to tap directly into the global economy.

Just after the talks ended on Wednesday, China's Foreign Ministry announced that North Korea had agreed with regional powers to disable its nuclear facilities -- and a source of atomic weapons material -- by the end of the year, and a major step in normalising relations with the outside world.

Roh, criticised at home for agreeing to a summit in which little was likely to be achieved, said he would focus on bringing peace to the divided peninsula giving a leg-up to the North's wrecked economy.

South Korean officials argue that the impact of a collapsing North Korea on their economy -- Asia's fourth largest -- is a far greater risk than any attack by the North and it makes sense to pump in a few billion dollars now to allow gradual integration, rather than face catastrophic change later.

But Roh said that the North still did not trust the South, talking of a wall between the two that was hard to break down.

After a distinctly dour welcome on Tuesday, Kim looked far more affable the next day, looking pleased with his gifts that included dozens of films for the well-known movie buff.

Roh's critics have said the summit had less to do with improving relations with the prickly North than with trying to boost his liberal allies who are lagging badly in opinion polls ahead of December's presidential election, which he is barred from contesting.

They also doubted he would broach the highly sensitive issues of North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions and appalling human rights record for fear of upsetting his paranoid host.


Reuters>

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