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S. Korea renews invitation to Kim Jong-il to join nuclear summit

All Headlines 11:22 June 01, 2011

SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- Despite North Korea's apparent refusal, South Korea's foreign minister renewed his country's invitation on Wednesday to Pyongyang's reclusive leader Kim Jong-il to join dozens of state heads at a nuclear summit in Seoul next year.

Speaking in a seminar on the summit set to be held next March, Kim Sung-hwan expressed hope that the North could take advantage of the meeting set to draw about 50 leaders from around the world to break its isolation and achieve denuclearization.

"We're ready to help gladly," Seoul's foreign minister said. "I urge the North not to waste a precious chance like this but to respond to our proposal actively."

The North has essentially dismissed the proposal that South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made last month in Berlin. The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a semi-official organ on cross-border relations, has said the idea of South Korea holding a nuclear summit is "ridiculous," accusing Seoul of hosting U.S. forces holding a stash of nuclear arms.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against the North, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a truce. The U.S. military denies it is hiding any nuclear arms in the South.

The nuclear summit scheduled for next year in Seoul will be one of the largest international gatherings to be hosted by Lee during his five-year tenure that ends in 2013. During the past three years, inter-Korean relations plunged after the impoverished North refused to sympathize with Lee's call that Pyongyang show clear denuclearization steps for aid from the South.

All forms of cross-border dialogue remain suspended, and South Korea and the U.S. say Pyongyang should also retract its newly unveiled uranium enrichment project if it wants to see the reopening of six-nation talks designed to provide political and economic benefits to the North in exchange for denuclearization.

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