Roh Crosses 'Line,' Walks to N. Korea; Meets with Kim in Pyongyang

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Salmon, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

SEOUL - In a short stroll heavy with symbolism, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun walked into North Korea this morning at the heavily armed border village of Panmunjom, later being greeted personally by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at the start of a historic summit in Pyongyang.

"I am now crossing this forbidden line as a president," a solemn Mr. Roh said in a nationally televised message just before stepping across the yellow line demarcating the border.

"After I return home, many more people will do likewise. Then this line of division will finally be erased, and the barrier will break down," he added.

Hours later in Pyongyang, the two leaders walked down a red carpet where Mr. Kim, wearing his usual khaki military jumpsuit, introduced Mr. Roh to North Korean leaders, according to wire service reports. North Koreans dressed in their finest clothes waved pink and red plastic flowers.

Mr. Kim appeared reserved, walking slowly and occasionally clapping lightly to encourage the crowd. Mr. Roh appeared to revel in the moment, smiling broadly.

But the substance of the talks at only the second North-South summit - seven years after then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and Mr. Kim met - remains uncertain. Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung refused to answer questions on agenda items yesterday, saying only that "everything is open" in talks between two countries still technically at war.

Despite recent progress at the China-sponsored regional "six-party talks" to end the North's nuclear-weapons programs, the public euphoria in the South that surrounded the first summit is absent this time around.

Mr. Roh has declared he will not raise the nuclear issue with Mr. Kim, saying that should be left to the negotiators in Beijing.

Instead, the three-day summit will focus on the broad issues of a "peace regime on the Korean Peninsula," an "economic community" between the Koreas and moves toward eventual reunification, the South Korean leader said.

"It will not be an uneventful course, but once discussions on a peace regime get under way in earnest, we can take up building military confidence and a peace treaty, and [also] the issue of arms reduction," Mr. Roh said in a televised speech before leaving.

Although Mr. …