SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea's president on Tuesday ruled out any reward to North Korea in return for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, just days after the South's leader raised the possibility of a summit this year.
"The leaders of South and North Korea should meet on the premise that there will be no price for a summit," President Lee Myung-bak said in a Cabinet meeting, according to his office.
Lee, who has taken a tougher approach toward Pyongyang than his predecessors since taking office in 2008, said he would not compromise his principle regarding the summit. Lee told the BBC last week from Davos, Switzerland, that a meeting with the North's Kim "could probably" take place within the year.
South Korea allegedly paid hundreds of millions of dollars to North Korea in 2000 to help arrange the summit between then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and the North's Kim in that year. The two Koreas also held a second summit in 2007.
Lee's latest comments came amid conflicting signals from North Korea toward its rival South Korea.
Last week, North Korea lobbed dozens of shells toward its disputed western sea border with South Korea, prompting South Korea to respond with a barrage of warning shots. Pyongyang called it a military exercise, and South Korean officials reported no casualties or damage.
Two no-sail zones ordered by North Korea early last week just before the fracas remain in place, and on Monday the Yonhap news agency in Seoul said Pyongyang issued notices for five new no-sail zones: four off the west coast and one off the east.
The poorly marked sea border is a frequent source of tension between the Koreas. Their navies fought a skirmish in November that left one North Korean sailor dead and three others wounded, and engaged in bloodier battles in the area in 1999 and 2002.
Despite the flare-up in tensions, officials from the two Koreas met at the North Korean border town of Kaesong on Monday to discuss their joint factory park. Talks ended without any significant progress.
The sides agreed instead to discuss at separate military talks South Korea's perennial request that border crossings be eased for its workers, the Unification Ministry said in a statement. They also put off addressing the North's demand for wage hikes for its workers until the next round of working-level talks on the factory park, the statement said.
Since 2004, Kaesong has combined South Korean capital and know-how with cheap North Korean labor and has been a key symbol of cooperation between the wartime rivals.
Tensions last year between the Koreas, which technically remain in a state of war because the two have not signed a peace treaty, put the project in jeopardy. (AP)