August 9, 2007 / 5:23 AM / 12 years ago

South Korea's Roh may take rail or road to North

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s president may use a newly built rail link with North Korea or lead one of the biggest convoys of civilian vehicles from Seoul to Pyongyang for a summit this month, a South Korean official said on Thursday.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun (C) enters with South Korea's Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung (L), chief presidential national security adviser Baek Jong-chun (R) and National Intelligence Service head Kim Man-bok (2nd R) for the National Security Council at the presidential Blue House in Seoul August 8, 2007. The leaders of the divided Koreas will hold a summit on August 28-30 in the North Korean capital Pyongyang. REUTERS/Blue House/Handout

North and South Korea announced on Wednesday that President Roh Moo-hyun will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il from Aug 28-30 for only the second summit of the two countries in more than 50 years.

“We plan to request that the president and delegates travel by land,” Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung told reporters. “I believe the North will be able to accept our request.”

The two countries are technically still at war.

South Korea proposed to the North that preparatory talks to discuss the mode of travel as well as the agenda, security and protocol for the summit begin on Monday in Kaesong, just north of the border, a ministry official said.

For the first summit, in June 2000, then President Kim Dae-jung flew to Pyongyang, where he was greeted by wild cheers and a beaming Kim Jong-il at the airport.

After that summit, the two Koreas pledged to punch holes through the razor-wire fences that stretch across their heavily mined and guarded border by building road and rail links.

South and North Korea sent the first trains across their border since the 1950-53 Korean War on a test run in May. Seoul, which has been pressing for regular train runs, reconnected the lines and was only able to secure the one-off crossing after pledging some $80 million in aid for the North’s industries.

Lee declined to say whether Roh and delegates would use the newly opened rail link, which in theory makes it possible for a train to travel from the southern end of the peninsula through the North and up to the Chinese border.

South Korea has also built highways into North Korea that run parallel to the two rail links — one northwest of Seoul and the other on the east coast.

In one of the more unusual crossings, the South’s Hyundai Group sponsored a convoy of vehicles carrying 1,000 people and 100 head of cattle to North Korea on aid and reconciliation mission in 2003.

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