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(photo credit: AP)
South Korea's president announced he was willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Il anytime to resolve the nuclear standoff on the divided peninsula and other issues.
President Lee Myung-bak suggested in a live television address late Friday that an inter-Korean summit could be held to try to improve relations, which have been strained since the conservative politician took office last year.
"We don't have any political reason to hold a summit (with Kim) right now, but I can meet him at any time if it will help convince North Korea to give up its nuclear programs and resolve the issue of prisoners of war and abductees," Lee said.
South Korea presumes North Korea is holding 560 of its soldiers from the 1950-53 Korean War in addition to 504 South Korean civilians, mostly fishermen whose boats were seized since the war's end. The war ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas still technically at war.
North Korea said the civilians voluntarily defected to the North and denies holding any prisoners of war.
Lee's comments came as the United States prepares to send a special envoy to North Korea on Dec. 8 to test the waters for resuming nuclear disarmament talks.
North Korea's Kim has met with South Korean leaders twice in Pyongyang: the first in 2000 with then-President Kim Dae-jung and the other in 2007 with then-President Roh Moo-hyun.
Lee said Kim Jong Il should come to the South for a summit, but "I have flexibility that it does not have to be held within the territory of South Korea if such a summit will help resolve North Korea's nuclear and humanitarian issues."
North Korea pulled out of six-nation nuclear disarmament talks in April. The negotiations involve the United States, the two Koreas, China, Russia and Japan.