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Secrecy maintained during summit negotiations

The month-long behind-the-scenes negotiations that resulted in the agreement on an unprecedented inter-Korean summit were conducted in such secrecy that even close aides of Culture and Tourism Minister Park Jie-won knew nothing until just minutes before a formal announcement was made, officials said yesterday.

Even as late as Sunday, Chong Wa Dae officials had maintained that they could not confirm rumors that an important communique on North-South relations would be released. On the other hand, sources close to the ruling camp insisted that clues about the announcement of the inter-Korea summit meeting were evident as early as March 9, when President Kim Dae-jung made his Berlin Declaration.

Political observers noted that Culture and Tourism Minister Park Jie-won, President Kim's secret envoy to the inter-Korean negotiations, recently made sudden changes to his official schedule, which later turned out to be impromptu trips to China and Japan.

Touching on the suddenness of yesterday's announcement, Minister Park admitted that some disagreements had delayed the negotiations at the beginning. "These, however, were resolved when the North contacted us last Friday and withdrew some of their preconditions," he said, refusing to elaborate further.

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