A South Korean delegation on a mission to North Korea to defuse nuclear tensions returned home today without having met leader Kim Jong Il, South Korean officials said.
Presidential envoy Lim Dong Won waited until late Tuesday night in the North's capital, Pyongyang, for an expected meeting with Kim. The reclusive leader never showed, South Korean Unification Ministry officials said.
No reason was given for Kim's failure to meet Lim, who was carrying a message from South Korean President Kim Dae Jung.
The development dashed hopes that Lim, who has met Kim Jong Il several times in the past, could try to personally dissuade the North Korean leader from pursuing nuclear weapons development. South Korean officials view Kim as the only figure in the hermetic country who can make any meaningful decision on the issue.
Nevertheless, the delegation was able to convey South Korea's antinuclear position in separate meetings with senior North Korean officials and hear the North's response.
Lim, who arrived Monday, met North Korea's No. 2 figure, Kim Yong Nam. He also met Kim Yong Sun, a key aide to Kim Jong Il. In the meetings, North Korean officials repeated Pyongyang's position that their nuclear issue can be resolved only through direct negotiations with the U.S., the North's media reported.