09 December 1997
(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.