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S. Korean Official Casts Doubt on Inter-Korean Leaders Meeting

by Kim Eunjee April 02, 2015

A senior South Korean official expressed doubt Thursday that an inter-Korean summit will happen during Russia's Victory Day ceremony next month.

The possibility of the first summit between North and South Korea since 2007 emerged after Moscow announced that South Korean President Park Geun-hye and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had been invited to the ceremony.

The South Korean official, who asked to remain anonymous, said the government will consider a series of factors, including overall inter-Korean relations and the possibility of meaningful dialogue, before making a decision.

The official stressed that Seoul is open to the idea of a summit, but the event should lead to substantive talks.

Last month, Moscow said the leaders of more than 20 countries, including Kim Jong Un, had agreed to attend a May 9 ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of Russia's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Pyongyang has not commented on a potential visit for Kim, who has never visited a foreign country or met a head of state since he took power in 2011.

According to Moscow, Seoul has not given a final answer to the invitation. In an interview with South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, Alexander Timonin, Russia's ambassador to Seoul, expressed hope that the leaders of the two Koreas will attend the event.

"It's up to the leaders from the two Koreas to decide over the inter-Korean talks. [If they visit Russia and agree to hold such talks], Russia could make efforts to create favorable environments [for the dialogue]," said the Russian envoy.

Some analysts in Seoul see the potential meeting between Park and Kim as an opportunity to improve ties between the two sides. Recently, tension has risen on the Korean peninsula over a joint military exercise by the U.S. and South Korea and allegations of North Korean human rights abuses.

The potential summit would mark Park's second meeting with a North Korean leader. In 2002, Park, who was a lawmaker at the time, traveled to Pyongyang and met with the late Kim Jong Il.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.

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