SEOUL, Oct 8 Trade between South and North Korea is expected to rise by 26 per cent this

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SEOUL, Oct 8 (Reuters) Trade between South and North Korea is expected to rise by 26 per cent this year as steps to scrap the North's nuclear arms programme speed up and exchanges between the two states keep growing, President Roh Moo-hyun said today.

An opinion poll published today, meanwhile, showed 74 per cent of South Koreans approved of only the second summit between the two Koreas and gave the embattled president a 43.4 per cent approval rating, from just above 20 per cent a month ago.

''The road that had been severed for more than half a century will open for 1,000 people to travel every day, and trade is expected to reach 1.7 billion dollars this year,'' Roh said in a speech to parliament read by Prime Minister Han Duck-soo.

Roh and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il agreed last week to reopen highways and freight rail services into the North and for South Korean firms to invest in plants and ports there.

Trade between the two Koreas was 1.35 billion dollars last year, the second straight year above the $1 billion-mark despite the North's nuclear test in October 2006 that triggered U N sanctions.

Roh said the summit proved a complete dissolution of the North's nuclear arms programme was within sight and laid the ground for greater economic ties between the two Koreas, which are technically at war under a truce.

Local media quoted a study by the Hyundai Research Institute over the weekend that said it would cost more than 10 trillion won (11 billion dollars) to fund the projects agreed at the summit.

The Hankook Ilbo newspaper poll of 1,012 people said Roh's approval rating was 43.4 per cent, up 10 percentage points from August. KBS television said its poll of 1,000 people showed a 53.7 per cent approval rating for Roh.

REUTERS ARB RN1020

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