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Lee makes conditional invitation to N.K. leader to nuclear summit

BERLIN -- President Lee Myung-bak said Monday that he was willing to invite North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to the world’s largest nuclear summit to be held in Seoul next year if Pyongyang “firmly agrees” with the international community to denuclearize. 

President Lee Myung-bak speaks during a news conference after a summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday. (Yonhap News)
President Lee Myung-bak speaks during a news conference after a summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday. (Yonhap News)

“If the North firmly agrees on denuclearization, I plan to invite Kim Jong-il to the second Nuclear Security Summit next spring,” Lee said during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel here in the German capital.

Lee’s proposal Monday was a step forward from what he said a year ago at the first Nuclear Security Summit initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, adding greater pressure to the isolated Kim regime. The North is believed to be enriching uranium, which could be used to make atomic bombs.

Lee said back then that he could invite Kim to the next gathering of some 50 world leaders in Seoul in April 2012 if the North rejoined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and showed a clear commitment to denuclearization.

The latest conditional invitation, however, does not require the North’s return to the NPT, Lee’s secretary for external strategy Kim Tae-hyo said.

“It would be necessary for the North to clarify its position through the proposed inter-Korean talks on denuclearization,” Kim told reporters.

“Then the detailed time frame for the various denuclearization measures and corresponding economic aid could be discussed through six-party talks.”

The presidential aide added that Seoul has roughly discussed the conditional invitation of Kim Jong-il with the White House although it has not informed Pyongyang about it.

The remarks came after Lee and Merkel agreed during their talks to strengthen economic ties, especially for the development of renewable energy, and to keep up with ongoing efforts to share Germany’s experience in reunifying the East and West to help South Korea prepare for reunification with the North.

Lee, on the first leg of his weeklong European tour, met with Chancellor Merkel for the third time. They previously held talks on the sidelines of last year’s ASEM Summit in Brussels in October and the Seoul G20 Summit in November.

Lee’s talks with Merkel came after the Korean president held a summit meeting earlier in the day with German President Christian Wulff, during which the two agreed to push for greater bilateral collaboration in developing industrial materials and components, electric cars and renewable energy.

Noting that Korea’s free trade agreement with the European Union, which will tentatively take effect on July 1, would provide a momentum in promoting bilateral trade and investment between their countries, Lee and Merkel agreed to strengthen ties in future-oriented areas such as renewable energy development and low-carbon, green growth, Cheong Wa Dae said.

The ruling Grand National Party, which controls more than half the parliamentary seats, gave the green light to the Korea-EU FTA last week despite the main opposition Democratic Party’s boycott. The DP refused to attend the National Assembly session, citing the need for further discussions on measures to minimize the damage mostly to Korea’s hog-raisers.

Having received an environmental award for his “green growth” policy initiative from his key business partner the United Arab Emirates late last year, Lee is pushing to expand ties with European leaders of eco-friendly industries.

Merkel, who holds a Ph.D. in physics and served as minister for the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety, is perceived as pro-nuclear energy. Problems related to energy development have been one of the major issues of her tenure since 2005, and her government had planned to delay the decommissioning of Germany’s nuclear plants. However, this decision was reversed after the nuclear incident at Fukushima in March.

In addition to the economic cooperation, Lee and Merkel assessed their countries’ cooperation on issues related to reunification under a preliminary agreement signed between Seoul’s Unification Ministry and Berlin’s federal ministry of the interior.

Under the memorandum of understanding, Seoul will receive a massive database from Berlin on the 1990 reunification of East and West Germany.

In addition to sharing the German documents and materials on exchanges between the East and West, negotiations for reunification, reconstruction of East Germany, social integration, mutual growth after reunification and estimation of unification costs, South Korea and Germany will hold an annual conference on reunification.

Former policymakers and other experts who participated in the reunification process will discuss issues of mutual concern in Seoul around September. Seoul and Berlin will take turns to host the annual consultative conference.

“The two leaders also exchanged views on recent developments around the Korean Peninsula, the G20 agenda, climate control and aid for developing countries,” Cheong Wa Dae said.

“President Lee also appreciated Germany’s contribution for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, while Chancellor Merkel reaffirmed Germany’s support for Seoul’s policies for peace and stability on the peninsula and commitment to play a constructive role.”

Lee had spoken with Merkel on the telephone at Berlin’s request a day after the North shelled a South Korean island near the inter-Korean border last November, killing four South Koreans including two civilians.

Also on Monday, Lee attended a luncheon hosted by Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit at Rotes Rathaus, or the Red City Hall, after stopping by at the Brandenburger Tor, the symbol of unified Germany.

Lee and Wowereit exchanged a wide range of views on bilateral relations and Berlin’s experience of integrating East and West Germany, Cheong Wa Dae said.

Having taken office as the mayor in 2001, Wowereit, a member of the Social Democratic Party, is known for enhancing the city government’s financial soundness through budget cuts and restructuring. He is often mentioned a possible SPD candidate for the Chancellorship of Germany in the next German federal election.

Lee arrived in Berlin Sunday afternoon and is slated to visit Frankfurt, Copenhagen and Paris later this week.

Lee reiterated that the existence of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula would delay reunification of the South and North, adding that his government was preparing for dialogue with Pyongyang

“Having nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula will delay reunification,” Lee said during a meeting with some 300 South Korean residents in Berlin Sunday evening.

“The North must give up its nuclear ambitions and save its economy like China and Vietnam for the 20 million North Korean people. (Seoul) is ready to hold dialogue with the North whenever it reaches out with a sincere heart.”

Having suggested last year the introduction of “unification tax” to finance the integration with one of the world’s poorest countries, Lee was expected to seek Berlin’s advice on the matter.

“There are fears over the costs of reunification, but most Koreans agree that (the South and North) must reunite,” Lee said.

“I plan to discuss unification issues as well as economic cooperation during my visit here.”

On Tuesday, Lee is scheduled to meet four people who led the German reunification in 1990: the last prime minister of East Germany, the foreign affairs aide to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the West German minister who signed the reunification treaty and the former commander of the East German region. 

By Kim So-hyun (

<한글 기사>

李대통령"비핵화합의땐 핵정상회의 北초청"

메르켈과 회담직후 공동기자회견 통해 제안

靑 "남북비핵화회담서 밝히는 게 중요..핵폐기 시점 밝혀야"

이명박 대통령은 9일 북한이 비핵화에 합의한다면 내년 봄 서울에서 열리는 제2차 핵안보정상회의에 초청할 수 있다고 제안했다.

이 대통령은 이날 오후 베를린 시내 총리실에서 앙겔라 메르켈 독일 총리와 회담을 가진 뒤 공동기자회견을 통해 "북한이 국제사회와 비핵화에 대해 확고히 합의한다면 50여개국 정상들이 참석하는 제2차 핵안보정상회의에 김정일 북한 국방위원장을 초청할 용의가 있다"고 말했다.

이 대통령은 이어 "그렇게 된다면 북한이 밝은 미래를 보장받을 수 있는 기회가 될 것"이라고 밝혔다.

청와대는 이 대통령의 이같은 입장에 대해 미국 백악관과도 이미 협의한 것으로 알려졌다. 

제1차 핵안보정상회의는 버락 오바마 미국 대통령의 주도로 지난해 4월 워싱턴에서 열렸으며 2차 정상회의는 내년 봄 서울에서 열릴 예정이다.

이 대통령은 지난해 4월 워싱턴에서 2차 핵안보정상회의 유치 관련 기자회견 당시 김 위원장 초청 가능성을 묻는 기자의 질문에 "북한이 2010년과 2011년, 2년 동안에 6자회담을 통해 핵을 포기하는 확실한 의지를 보이고, NPT(핵비확산조약)에 가입해서 세계(에서) 합의된 사항을 따르게 된다면 저는 기꺼이 초대를 하게 될 것"이라고 밝힌 바 있다.

이 대통령의 이같은 제안은 천안함, 연평도 사태로 긴장국면에 빠져있는 남북관계를 전환하기 위해 마련됐다는 분석이 나오고 있다.

정부가 지난 1월 통일부 대변인 논평을 통해 천안함ㆍ연평도와 북한 비핵화 문제를 위한 당국간 회담을 제안했지만 아직까지 북한은 이에 대해 호응하지 않고 있다.

이 대통령이 직접 대북 제안을 함으로써 남북 비핵화 회담의 계기를 만들어 남북관계 전환의 물꼬를 트고 남북정상회담의 여건을 조성하는 한편, 북핵 6자회담 재개의 전기도 주도적으로 마련하겠다는  의도가 내재돼 있다는 관측이다.

더 나아가 이 대통령이 지난 2009년 10월 미국 뉴욕에서 제시했던 `그랜드 바겐(Grand Bargain)' 구상과도 연결될 수 있는 것으로 해석된다.

그랜드바겐은 6자회담을 통해 북핵 프로그램의 핵심 부분을 폐기하면서 동시에 북한에게 확실한 안전보장을 제공하고 국제지원을 본격화하는 일괄 타결 방안이다.

이 대통령은 그랜드바겐과 관련해 미국, 일본 등 6자회담 당사국들과 협의를 벌였으나 북한이 호응하지 않았고 2010년 3월 북한의 천안함 폭침, 11월 연평도 포격 도발 사건이 발생하면서 진전을 보지 못했다.    

이날 이 대통령의 제안과 관련, 청와대 핵심 관계자는 "현재 제안한 남북 비핵화 회담을 통해 북한이 비핵화에 대한 생각을 밝히는 게 중요하고 6자회담을 통해 그랜드바겐 성격의 로드맵에 합의한다는 것을 뜻한다"고 설명했다.

이 관계자는 "이렇게 되면 국제사회가 북한 비핵화 시한에 따라 어떤 경제지원, 안전보장, 신뢰회복 조치를 할지 계획이 수립될 수 있다"며 "북한이 염려하는 안전보장, 경제회복이 함께 해결되므로 그런 맥락에서 이 대통령이 '북한의 밝은  미래'라고 언급한 것으로 안다"고 말했다.

비핵화 합의의 조건에 대해서는 "북한이 전체 핵프로그램을 언제까지 폐기하겠다는 확고한 의지, 이에 대한 국제사회의 확인과 같은 대략적 접근이 이야기하는 것이 (이번 제안에) 더 가깝다"면서 "9.19 공동성명에는 핵 프로그램 폐기 시점이 없었는데 이제는 시점이 필요하다"고 지적했다.

이어 "IAEA(국제원자력기구) 사찰단의 복귀까지는 아니더라도 사찰을 수용한다는 것이 긍정적 신호라고 볼 수 있고, 유엔안보리 결의 위반이라고 재규정하는 게 가장 정확하고 빠른 방법"이라면서 "북한이 UEP(우라늄농축프로그램) 위반을 인정하고 중단ㆍ 폐기하는 것을 전제로 6자회담에 나오겠다고 하면 중간에 안보리 절차와 과정은 생략될 수 있다"고 밝혔다.

그는 또 "북한이 비핵화를 약속한다면 도발에 대한 사과도 할 수 있을  것"이라며 "(북한이 비핵화에 합의하기 전에) 우리가 사과를 분명히 요구하게 될 것이다. 

사과가 돼야 남북한이 신뢰를 갖고 경제협력을 할 수 있다는 생각"이라고 강조했다.