'Peace' is the Primary Issue

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'Peace' is the Primary Issue

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright begins her visit to North Korea today.

The visit reflects the way the North Korea-U.S. relationship has been affected by the mood of reconciliation originating from the June meeting of Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il. Mrs. Albright’s visit is particularly noteworthy because it is clearly aimed at preparing for a visit by President Clinton in the near future.

The matter of greatest concern to the United States has been obtaining a guarantee from the North that it will halt development of missiles and weapons of mass destruction. In return for such a guarantee North Korea has been asking for compensation, including direct financial support from the United States. We expect positive measures from the North to settle this long-pending issue.

Chairman Kim Jong-il has stated that North Korea is ready to establish a diplomatic relationship with the United States, as long as the United States removes the North from its list of terrorism-supporting countries. If this happens, the development of relations is likely to speed up, and we should see the opening of liaison offices.

What we urgently call for is the ‘normalization’ of discussions on the Korean peace issue. We want a secure guarantee for the establishment of a permanent peace system on the peninsula. We do not object to meetings between separated families or the provision of food aid and fertilizer to the North. These measures are necessary for humanitarian and economic reasons. What we emphasize at this point is that it is time to move on to more serious issues, such as the easing of military tensions and the signing of peace agreements.

We particularly regret that there were some signs of discord between South Korea and the United States in the course of preparing for and proceeding with the June summit meeting between the two Koreas.

We have to take care that we do not fall into any kind of struggle over who should take the lead in negotiations on the Korean peace issue as this would play into North Korea’s hands and tempt it to use a divisive negotiating strategy.

In the same vein, we urge the Clinton administration to deal with the North Korean issue in the context of a wider strategic framework for Northeast Asia, and to avoid using it as a way solely to end the U.S. president’s term on a positive note.

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