SEOUL (Reuters) - The second ever summit between the two Koreas looked strained on Wednesday when the South’s president snubbed an invitation to stay in Pyongyang another day and said North Korea still did not trust its neighbor.
But Seoul insisted the talks between Roh Moo-hyun and the North’s reclusive leader Kim Jong-il had been a success and they would issue a statement by lunchtime on Thursday.
“The leaders met twice today in the morning and afternoon. We believe there was sufficient and honest dialogue. The president said the result of the talks was satisfactory,” presidential spokesman Chon Ho-seon told reporters in Pyongyang. He did not elaborate.
Earlier, the communist state’s leader invited Roh to stay on until Friday, saying it would allow the two men, who have never met before, to hold more relaxed and substantive talks.
No reason was given for the rejection but a South Korean spokesman later quoted Kim as telling Roh at the end of their meeting: “We have had sufficient dialogue so it (another day) may not be necessary. You have people waiting in the South so let’s do it as we had planned.”
Roh earlier told reporters he had felt a “wall, hard to tear down” in his talks with Kim.
“(The North) does not completely trust South Korea. To actively proceed with the things we want to do, we need to overcome this wall of mistrust,” a South Korean media pool report quoted him as saying.
He cited Pyongyang’s dissatisfaction with the speed of development of an industrial park run by the South in Kaesong, a former royal capital just north of the border between the two Koreas, which remain technically at war and divided for more than 60 years.
The three-day meeting comes as countries involved in six-party talks revealed an agreement with North Korea over its nuclear program. The deal includes disabling the North’s Soviet-era reactor and plants that make bomb-grade plutonium within three months.
Before driving north on Tuesday, Roh had said the purpose of the summit was to ease tensions and help his impoverished communist neighbor. Yet his first encounter with a dour Kim in Pyongyang on Tuesday did not augur well.
It was a far more affable North Korean leader who turned up on Wednesday ahead of formal talks, television footage showed.
Film-buff Kim’s face lit up when he saw gifts from Roh: a painted room screen, high quality tea and a collection of DVDs that included a drama about a royal court cook starring one of Kim’s favorite South Korean actresses, Lee Young-ae.
Though a crime for ordinary North Koreans to watch films from the South, they made an ideal gift for the revered leader.
The atomic deal, almost exactly a year after the North had conducted its first nuclear test, eases domestic and international pressure on Roh to force disarmament concessions out of Kim.
His critics said the visit was aimed more at domestic politics and expected Roh to skirt the nuclear weapons issue and mass human rights abuses so as not to offend his host.
Roh insisted the summit would foster peace on the peninsula, partitioned since the end of World War Two, and help the ruined economy of the North which maintains one of the world’s largest standing armies, mostly stationed near their common border.
Few details have leaked out on what the two leaders have discussed other than that they touched on peace and economic cooperation.
South Korean officials said before the summit Seoul could pledge aid worth billions of dollars to rebuild the North’s creaking infrastructure and the foes might sign an agreement to ease tensions on the Cold War’s last frontier.
Roh later witnessed one of the North’s typical mass games extravaganzas, complete with goose-stepping soldiers, dancing schoolgirls and a large flip card animation section that promotes unification under the North’s communist banner.
The spectacle however was tailored for Roh, and cut back on items seen in other shows — such as depictions of the North’s soldiers bayoneting those from the South.
With reporting by Jack Kim and Jessica Kim