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South and North Korean leaders hold historic talks

By Xinhua

Pyongyang/Seoul : South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il concluded their first round of formal summit talks in Pyongyang Wednesday.

The talks began at around 9.30 a.m. at the Paekhwawon State Guest House in Pyongyang and lasted more than two hours.

In Seoul, presidential spokesman Cheo Ho-seon said in a press release that the two leaders have agreed to hold another around of talks at 2.30 p.m.

The summit is the second of its kind since the peninsula was divided more than half a century ago. Roh’s predecessor, Kim Dae-jung, travelled to North Korea for the first inter-Korean summit in June 2000.

Earlier, a spokesman for Roh told reporters in Seoul that Kim Jong Il and Roh were joined by South Korean Finance Minister Kwon O-kyu, Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung, Director of the National Intelligence Service Kim Man-bok and North Korea’s Director of the United Front Department of the Workers’ Party Kim Yang-gon at Wednesday morning’s meeting.

According to the spokesman, Roh and Kim will plant a tree at the central arboretum of Pyongyang Wednesday afternoon to mark the second inter-Korean summit and watch a mass dance and musical spectacle, the Arirang, later in the day. The performance features synchronised manoeuvres by thousands of dancers and a giant flip-card mosaic.

The two sides will hold working-group meetings Wednesday to explore ways of strengthening bilateral cooperation in seven areas, including economy, culture, religion and politics, said the spokesman.

Growing economic cooperation has been a highlight of the warming relations between the North and South since the first inter-Korea summit. Joint projects have been launched in tourism, industry and other fields, including tours of Mount Kumgang and the industrial zone in North Korea’s border city of Kaesong.

The South Korean president is also scheduled to visit some industrial sites Thursday before wrapping up his three-day visit, which is likely to culminate with the issuance of a joint statement or a declaration of peace Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

Roh, who travelled some 200 km overland to Pyongyang Tuesday and was greeted by Kim at a festive ceremony upon arrival, met North Korea’s top legislator Kim Yong Nam Tuesday afternoon.