President Lee Myung-bak Wednesday urged North Korea to completely abandon its nuclear weapons program to pave the ground for inter-Korean peace and closer economic cooperation.
Lee then warned that the communist North may fail to stabilize its regime and attain economic prosperity unless its attitude towards nuclear weapons is changed through the framework of six-party nuclear talks.
"In the early 1990s, North Korea already signed an inter-Korean accord to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. I hope the North Korean nuclear issue is resolved through the six-party talks in line with the denuclearization accord that took effect in 1992," said Lee at a policy briefing session of the Unification Ministry.
"North Korea's leadership has to realize that the settlement of its nuclear problem would be truly helpful to inter-Korean economic cooperation and unification. The North will only be able to stabilize its regime, maintain peace and achieve economic prosperity when it gives up its nuclear program," said the president.
But Lee vowed that his government will continue the existing inter-Korean economic cooperation projects and the provision of humanitarian aid to North Korea, even before the dismantlement of the North's nuclear program.
The president then reiterated his previous demand that the North faithfully address the issue of repatriating South Korean prisoners of war and abductees now living in the communist state.
"We'll keep up the shipment of humanitarian aid to North Korea regardless of the nuclear issue, because we have to continue to love the North Korean people. In return, however, the North should also become more serious about resolving the problems associated with South Korean prisoners of war, abductees and separated families," said Lee.
He also said the existing cross-border cooperation projects, such as a South Korean tour of North Korea's Mount Geumgang and the South-invested industrial park in the North's border town of Kaesong, should be continued, though there is still room for improvement.
SEOUL, March 26 (Yonhap)