North Korea slams South president's 'deceitful' memoir

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea on Thursday attacked a "deceitful" memoir by former South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak in which he claimed Pyongyang tried to sell Seoul a leadership summit for US$10 billion (S$ 13.5 billion).

Accusing Mr Lee of seeking to "turn black into white" with his version of the summit negotiations, the North said Mr Lee had "begged" for a sit down with its then-leader, Kim Jong-Il.

"We don't feel the need to go into details," the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF) said in a statement carried by the North's official KCNA news agency.

"But to make it short, the traitor Lee reached out to us and begged us to accept a special envoy or a summit whenever he was cornered politically ... We have all the evidence to prove this," the committee said.

In his just-published memoir, "President's Time", Mr Lee said North Korea had demanded an "absurd" US$10 billion payoff and close to a million tonnes in food aid in 2009 in return for granting a summit with Seoul.

The two Koreas held an historic summit in 2000 and again in 2007, and Mr Lee said the possibility of a third was explored when North Korea sent a high-powered delegation to the funeral of former South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung in August, 2009.

Confidential negotiations then took place in Singapore and in Kaesong, just over the border in North Korea.

The negotiations coincided with heightened tensions over the North's nuclear weapons programme. Following a long-range missile test in April 2009, Pyongyang carried out its second nuclear test a month later.

Then in March 2010, a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, sank near the border, killing 46 sailors. The South pinned the blame on the North and effectively froze all trade and investment ties.

Nevertheless, in July the same year, Lee said a high-ranking South Korean intelligence official visited the North at the invitation of Pyongyang.

In addition to restating the South's opposition to providing material reward for a summit, the official made it clear that the North "should first apologise" for sinking the naval vessel.

The North responded by demanding half a million tonnes of rice aid and offering to express its sympathy with the Korean people over the loss of life on the Cheonan - a formulation Lee described as "unacceptable".

The North has always vehemently denied responsibility for the Cheonan incident.

In its Thursday statement, the CPRF said Lee was using his "deceitful memoir" to avoid responsiblity for driving cross-border ties between the two Koreas into a "catastrophic state".