S Korean president stresses diplomacy, better ties with DPRK in New Year's speech

13:28, January 04, 2010      

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South Korean President Lee Myung-bak vowed Monday the country will broaden and strengthen diplomatic relations with others, including the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

"We need to open a new chapter in relations between South Korea and the DPRK this year," Lee said in his televised address to the nation, designed to lay out policy blueprint for 2010.

"I urge the DPRK to return to the six-party talks soon," he added, in what seems to be a renewed call for resuming stalled multilateral talks on the DPRK's denuclearization involving two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia.

With the potential resumption of the talks, he expects a momentum for further cooperation between the two Koreas and a progress in nuclear-free Korean peninsular, Lee added.

"To that end, there needs to be a body for standing dialogue between South Korea and the DPRK," the president said, hinting at a possible establishment of a new organization aimed at warming ties between the two countries.

The president added that the country will continue its effort to discover remains of South Korean soldiers in the DPRK killed in the Korean War through joint operations in 2010, which marks the 60th anniversary of the civil war.

Meanwhile, President Lee pledged renewed efforts to strengthen the country's ties with China and Japan, and said the country will bolster diplomatic relations with African countries.

He also vowed to increase international aid, expand peacekeeping operations overseas, and participate in U.S.-led reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

Lee Myung-bak came to office in February 2008 in a landslide election victory, partly won by his pledge to get tougher with the DPRK, ending a decade of liberal-leaning policies toward the country and souring the ties.

But the icy relations recently inched toward a thaw, with Pyongyang accepting Seoul's humanitarian assistance amid talks of resuming six-way negotiations.

The administration under the president Lee, an ex-CEO who bills himself mainly as an economy-savvy leader, has said what it sees the country's better diplomatic standing in the international community as one of the major achievements under Lee's presidency.

Source: Xinhua
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