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USIS Washington 
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09 December 1997

HISTORIC FOUR-PARTY TALKS ON KOREAN PENINSULA OPEN IN GENEVA

(Process seeks end to "no war-no peace" state in Korea) (460)

By Wendy Lubetkin

USIA European Correspondent



Geneva -- The first formal talks aimed at bringing a lasting and
stable peace to the Korean Peninsula opened December 9 in Geneva.


The four-party talks bring together the Democratic People's Republic
of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea), China
and the United States for the first international discussions on
replacing the 1953 armistice agreement. The armistice, which ended the
Korean War, was originally intended to be a temporary arrangement.


The four-party process was first proposed by President Bill Clinton
and South Korean President Kim Young Sam in the April 1996 Chejudo
Declaration. Switzerland is hosting the talks, which are being held in
a Geneva office building that also houses the European Free Trade
Association (EFTA) headquarters.


"These talks are the result of nine months of consultations and
preparatory meetings in the United States and have inspired high hopes
in the whole international community," Swiss Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs Jakob Kellenberger said at the opening of the talks.


The ultimate aim of the process, Kellenberger said, is to end the "no
war-no peace" situation which has prevailed on the Korean Peninsula
since the signing of the armistice.


The heads of all four delegations gathered for a symbolic four-way
handshake, joining their hands together in front of the television
cameras, before the talks got underway behind closed doors.


Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Stanley Roth is acting as chairman of this round of talks. The
chairmanship will rotate among the heads of delegations during the
coming rounds.


The Chinese delegation is headed by Vice Foreign Minister Tang
Jiaxuan. South Korea's delegation is headed by Ambassador Li See
Young, ROK Ambassador to France, and North Korea's delegation is
headed by Kim Gye Gwan, DPRK Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.


The first session will be a "get-acquainted opportunity" for the chief
delegates since it is the first meeting of the four parties at this
level, explained a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity.
"We expect that each of the four parties will lay out in some detail
its approach to the talks."


The official added that it would be too much to expect major concrete
results from the first session, but said it is hoped the meeting will
"set the stage for progress on this agenda in future sessions."


Although there is no fixed completion date for the talks, U.S.
officials say the first session is expected to last two days.