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South Korea rejects North proposal for summit talks
Seoul, AUG 18 (Agencies):
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Published on 18 Aug. 2010 10:19 PM IST
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South Korea is reported to have rejected a recent offer from the Communist North to hold an inter-Korean summit in an apparent bid by the latter to secure economic aid, despite the March 26 sinking of a Seoul warship, a news report said on Wednesday.
Terming the offer as a typical carrot-and-stick policy, the mass-circulated Dong-a Ilbo newspaper cited unidentified South Korean government officials as saying that North Korea superficially proclaims military retaliation against sanctions imposed on it while suggesting an inter-Korean summit under the table.
Citing another source, the paper said Pyongyang asked Seoul to send someone to Chanamsan Hotel in North’s border city of Kaesong after Yim Tae-hee, who was in charge of the unofficial dialogue channel with North Korea last year, was named presidential chief of staff on July 9.
The request (to send someone) was to ascertain whether the promise Yim made in Singapore (of hosting an inter-Korean summit and giving economic assistance to the North) in October last year still stood.
The source said Seoul sent a representative to Kaesong to say “the promise cannot be kept and circumstances have changed.”
However, Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo denied there had been any past or current government-level talks between the Koreas over a summit.
“We never received a message from North Korea and no dialogue is being held with the North on the government level. The dialogue channel with the North is now being cut,” the daily quoted a government source from the Office of the Senior Secretary to the President for Foreign Affairs and National Security as saying.
The latest reports of a possible inter-Korean summit came after South Korean media earlier this year said that the two Koreas held a series of secret meetings in 2009 to discuss a possible summit but differed widely over conditions for such a meeting.
Seoul to release full report on ship sinking

South Korea’s defense ministry next week will release the results of its investigation into the sinking a South Korean warship in a book-length document, a step officials hope will quell the doubts and criticisms civic activists in Seoul have raised about their work.
The conclusion will be the same as a preliminary report issued on May 20, which said a North Korean torpedo on March 26 sank the 1,200-ton patrol boat Cheonan, causing the deaths of 46 South Korean sailors. But the new document will explain in far more detail how 74 military and civilian investigators, chiefly from South Korea but with the help of the U.S., U.K., Australia and Sweden, reached their findings.
U.S. military officials in May examine the torpedo retrieved from the site of a South Korean warship in Seoul. “The paper is now being proofread and it will be about 250 to 270 pages,” said Kwon Ki-hyeon, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense.
It will be available as a PDF file in Korean and English, though a precise release time hasn’t been set, he said, because South Korean military leaders are engaged in an annual military exercise with the U.S. this week.
Since announcing the preliminary results in May, investigators remained largely silent while critics, mainly from left-leaning activist groups in South Korea, picked apart their work, which was explained in summaries as short as seven pages.
Opinion polls show that 20% to 30% of South Koreans doubt the investigation committee’s findings.
The controversy was compounded by the timing of the May 20 announcement, which happened two weeks before city and provincial elections.
The exploded torpedo and a missing turbine from the ship were found after the ministry set the date for the announcement but before it was made.
Defense Minister Kim Tae-young at the time explained that he chose the date because, after the major parts of the Cheonan were lifted out of the water in late April, the ministry came under intense pressure to describe what they had found, and he wanted to do that before getting too close to the June 2 election.
Now, Mr. Kwon says the ministry isn’t under time pressure, but wants to make the published report comprehensive and bulletproof. “We are trying our best to be as accurate as possible,” he said.
The most substantive of the doubters’ criticisms have to do with material found on the ship’s wreckage and on parts of the exploded torpedo recovered nearby.
The investigators found aluminum oxide, likely produced by the torpedo explosion.
An experiment done by physicist Seung-hun Lee of the University of Virginia, along with a colleague in Canada, suggests the material may be aluminum hydroxide, which forms on aluminum in water. That could mean the torpedo exploded elsewhere and drifted to the area where the Cheonan sank, and was not the cause of its sinking.
In an interview, Mr. Lee said he is eager to see the more-detailed findings. “If they’re right, that’s fine. To me their data so far is completely wrong,” he said.
Mr. Lee also questions whether a magic-marker scrawling found on a part of the exploded torpedo would have survived the heat of the blast. But other physicists argue the part was thrown clear of the blast so quickly and was in such cold water that the ink could remain.
Gordon Flake, a Korea specialist and executive director at the Mansfield Foundation, an independent organization in Washington that promotes dialogue between the U.S. and Asian countries, said the debate over the Cheonan investigation shows the vibrancy of discourse in South Korea as well as the tightrope that democratic governments walk between transparency and national security.
“They have to be responding to public doubt and, in this case, political gamesmanship by China and Russia,” Mr. Flake said, referring to the two countries that are closest to North Korea and that have not endorsed the South’s conclusions about the sinking. “But at the same there is a limit to how much you can put out there.”
He said he didn’t think the report coming next week will change the minds of political opponents of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. “They should be aiming for the people who were ambiguous or ambivalent about the initial findings,” Mr. Flake said.

 
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