South Korean president says he will provide aid to North Korea

South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun said he plans to make lots of concessions to communist North Korea and provide it with unconditional aid, in an effort to build trust, his office said Wednesday.

Roh made the announcement as his predecessor, Kim Dae-jung, prepared to visit the North to meet with its leader, Kim Jong Il, amid speculation that the trip might lead to a breakthrough in stalled six-nation talks on Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

"I'm going to make a lot of concessions (to North Korea)," Roh told South Korean residents during a visit to Mongolia on Tuesday, according to a transcript provided by the presidential office.

"Other than making concessions on fundamental issues ... I'm going to provide institutional and material aid without conditions," he said.

Roh said that "emotion and mistrust" still exist between the two nations, which fought the bloody 1950-53 Korean War, and that the wealthier South should make concessions to dispel that mistrust.

South Korea has been one of the main aid providers to the impoverished North, periodically sending it fertilizer and rice.

Roh said he has high expectations for Kim's planned June trip to the North, because it could provide a chance for a "flexible dialogue" with the country's leader Kim Jong Jill. While in office, Kim Dae-jung traveled to North Korea for an unprecedented summit with him in 2000.

Roh also indicated a desire to hold his own meeting with Kim Jong Il. "I'm completely open to North Korea," he said. "I've said dozens of times that let's meet and talk regardless of where, when and what topic."

The two Koreas made big strides toward reconciliation after the 2000 summit. But relations have been affected by the international standoff over the North's nuclear program. How to deal with North Korea is often a source of discord between Seoul and Washington.

Recently, the U.S. envoy on North Korean human rights, Jay Lefkowitz, raised concern that a joint Korean project to build an industrial park in North Korea may help its hardline communist government, reports the AP.


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