News

SOUTH-NORTH KOREA: 'GATE FOR DIALOGUE' HAS BEEN OPENED

(Foreign Media Reaction Daily Digest)
U.S. Information Agency Office of Public Liaison 3/13/97

Largely crediting the "patient mediation of the United States," analysts overseas expressed cautious optimism that a "thaw" between North and South Korea has begun as a result of last week's three-party briefing in New York and the subsequent "marathon" meeting between U.S. and North Korean officials. While most editors stopped short of proclaiming a "breakthrough" in relations between the two Koreas, nearly all sensed the opening of a "new chapter" that could lead to the unification of the peninsula. Munich's centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung summed up this view, stating: "It has been a long time since the North and South Koreans have been as civilized as they (were)...in New York.... All this gives reason for hope that...the gate for dialogue will remain open."

North Korea's motives for coming to the table nonetheless received considerable scrutiny. Most analysts cited the North's food crisis, economic hardship and "unsettling political events" as playing a major role in Pyongyang's decision to send a delegation to New York. Some observers also perceived that North Korea's "real enthusiasm" was not necessarily directed toward the briefing itself but toward the possibility of pursuing bilateral meetings with the U.S. that would exclude South Korea. Examining this aspect of the "triangular relationship," the media in South Korea came to mixed conclusions. Seoul's pro-business Joong-Ang Ilbo maintained that "as long as the United States and South Korea do not hide anything from each other...we have no reason to object" to such meetings, adding that they "could ease tension on this peninsula." Contrasting views were expressed by other Seoul dailies, such as the independent Dong-A Ilbo, which asserted: "The sooner the North abandons the illusion that dialogue with the U.S. will solve its problems, the better." Conservative Segye Ilbo also expressed reservations about U.S.- DPRK talks, stating: "We have mixed feelings about the extensive contacts taking place between the two countries...(which) could inject new life into the proposed four-party talks, but at the same time, (South) Korea may still find itself in meaningless little fights with the United States if the North continually attempts to exclude the South from dialogue." Outside South Korea, the view on improved Washington-Pyongyang ties, however, was largely positive.

Saying that "time was running out" for North Korea, liberal Mainichi of Tokyo called on the U.S. to pursue the missile technology control regime with Pyongyang and urged North Korea to open a liaison office with the U.S. in order to gain "international trust."

Meanwhile, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) continued to issue provocative statements calling for the immediate "removal" of what it termed the South's "puppets." KCNA also called on its people to stand firm under the Juche (Self Reliance) banner to resist what it called Radio Free Asia's "imperialist ideological and cultural infiltration" of North Korea. Official Iranian radio, for its part, seized upon a visit by North Korea's deputy foreign minister, Jo U- Jin, to call for "normalization between the two Koreas" as "the duty of all independent states to stand against America's bullying."

This survey is based on 27 reports from 12 countries, March 6 - 11.
EDITOR: Kathleen J. Brahney

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

SOUTH KOREA: "Mixed Expectations And Concerns"

The perception of conservative Segye Ilbo was (3/11): "With the North Korean Foreign Ministry's deputy chief now visiting Washington and meeting with American officials to continue talks, we have mixed feelings about the extensive contacts taking place between the two countries. A suddenly cooperative North Korea engaged in dialogue could inject new life into the proposed four-party talks, but at the same time, (South) Korea may still find itself in meaningless little fights with the United States if the North continually attempts to exclude the South from dialogue. About the news that both sides have agreed to quasi-high level meetings on a regular basis, the South denies that any agreement was made, adding that North- South dialogue should make progress first before such meetings take place."

"U.S.-DPRK Relations: Waking Up From Hibernation"

Conservative Segye Ilbo also told its readers (3/11): "U.S.- DPRK relations have awakened from their months-long hibernation, as demonstrated by the five-member North Korean delegation's visit to Washington. Additional significance lies in its being the first (exchange) of its kind since last year's submarine incident.... This visit may well indicate that the two countries have moved beyond the incident and are now ready to open a new chapter in their relations."

"Separate U.S.-North Korea Meeting"

Independent Dong-A Ilbo declared (3/9): "Indicating that a new, formal channel of dialogue between the United States and North Korea has been opened, the two agreed to regular quasi- high level meetings. This is something new in their relationship. Because any change in the U.S.-DPRK relationship could easily affect the whole peninsula, we cannot help but pay close attention to what they discuss. Also, we must reiterate the importance of our belief that the South and the North are the ones who should determine the outcome of Korean issues. Far from trying to block U.S.-DPRK talks, we merely emphasize once again that there should not be secret negotiations between them. The sooner the North abandons the illusion that dialogue with the United States will solve its problems, the better."

"U.S.-DPRK To Meet On Regular Basis"

Pro-business Joong-Ang Ilbo maintained (3/9): "As long as the United States and South Korea do not hide anything from each other and continue to maintain their strong solidarity, we have no reason to object to the prospect that the (United States and North Koera) meet on a regular basis. We believe that an improved relationship between the two countries could ease tension on this peninsula."

"U.S.-North Korea Relations: Signs Of Speedy Improvement"

The independent Dong-A Ilbo (3/9) commented that "although there were no specific agreements made on standing issues at the U.S.-DPRK meeting, setting up a formal channel of regular dialogue was agreed to. Given that their contacts have so far been informal, the North considers this to be a major achievement. Despite this progress, and mostly because the four-party talks and U.S.-North Korea relations are linked, the United States does not have much to offer the North. The South Korean government has emphasized the importance of this link, and the United States has generally supported it. At this point, the fact that the United States and North Korea share basically similar views about the peninsula is more important: They both want to maintain the status quo, not generate change. Realistically speaking, the prospect of improved U.S.-North Korea relations has become inevitable. As a diplomatic source in Washington said, it was just a matter of time."

"Three Parties Reacted Differently"

Pro-business Joong-Ang Ilbo commented (3/7): "Although (the United States, North and South Korea) all agreed that the likelihood of the four-party talks had been significantly raised, the three parties reacted to the preliminary meeting in three different ways. North Korea stuck to its previous position that a peace agreement is business strictly between the United States and North Korea. In spite of that, the North said that it needed courage to come to the table and emphasized that it listened with sincerity to the briefings by the United States and South Korea. The United States appeared anxious to remind the others that it was playing a key role and, at times, it seemed to try to put pressure on an 'uncooperative' South Korea. For its part, South Korea said that it would patiently wait for the North's answer. Food aid, the South clarified, will not be under way before the North agrees to the four-party talks."

"Let's Not Rush To Predictions"

Moderate Hankook Ilbo editorialized (3/7): "It is too early to be optimistic about the outcome of the meeting. We should not let ourselves become too excited. The truth is that the North has continually tried to exclude us from dialogue and its real enthusiasm is not dialogue with us but with the United States. The North should know by now that aid will not be possible without our participation."

"An Emphasis On South-North Dialogue"

Pro-business Joong-Ang Ilbo (3/6) commented, "North Korea did not appear very enthusiastic at the preliminary meeting in New York. That was not totally unexpected, since we know that it is more interested in talks with the United States slated for March 7. Nevertheless, government officials commented that the gathering in itself was significant enough, and added that the North will eventually have no other option but to agree to the four-party talks."

"The Way To Find Korea's Share"

Pro-business Joong-Ang Ilbo (3/6) held: "A few days before the talks actually took place, State Department officials invited and briefed Korean reporters on the New York preliminary meeting. They presented their 'broad-range' plans of what they wanted to do with North Korea, plans including continuing food aid and easing economic sanctions. They argued that in order to prevent the country from resorting to military threats, the North's bad economy should be helped first. Although we do not disagree with them, it is annoying that the current triangle relationship, with Washington playing the central role and South Korea in an awkward position, will have to continue at least for some time. Meanwhile, North Korea has been studying U.S. intentions and has become more intent than ever on responding sincerely to U.S. desires. In turn, the United States is now responding to these expressions of sincerity by the North, and paying less attention to what South Korea has to say. If Seoul wants to have its policy reflected in Washington, it should hasten to prepare a comprehensive and creative policy plan, and invite both the United States and the North to a discussion."

NORTH KOREA: "Kim Young-Sam, Wrecker Of S. Korean Stability"

Official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) ran this article (3/10): "Kim Young-Sam in a 'statement to the people' prattled that he would defend 'security' at any cost and not tolerate remarks and acts hampering 'security.' Commenting on this, Rodong Sinmun (Labor Daily) ...said that with such words he revealed his criminal intention to prolong his days in office. The daily goes on: 'The serious political and economic confusion and crisis in South Korea and the danger of war on the Korean Peninsula have been created by the Kim Young-Sam group. This proves that the puppets are hampering and wrecking the security of the people.

"Kim Young-Sam, who is destroying the political and economic stability of South Korean society and endangering peace and security of the country, must be removed without delay.'"

"Foreign Ministry Spokesman Condemns Radio Free Asia"

Official Korean Central News Agency published this view (3/8) by the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea: "'A few days ago, the United States began broadcasting Radio Free Asia in Korean, following its broadcasting in Chinese, Vietnamese and other national languages of Asia, despite repeated protests and criticisms from the DPRK and other Asian countries. The Korean language broadcasting is aimed at infiltrating American 'values,' decadent ideas and culture into the DPRK, paralysing its people's consciousness of independence and undermining its socialist position from within. This shows the U.S. policy of antagonizing and stifling the DPRK remains unchanged and is getting pronounced with the passage of time.... The Korean people will determinedly smash the imperialist ideological and cultural infiltration, consolidate their politico-ideological fortress and continue to bring into full play the advantages of the man-centred Korean socialist system under the banner of the Juche idea.'"

JAPAN: "Continuation Of Dialogue Will Bear Fruit"

Liberal Mainichi observed (3/9): "The marathon nature of the talks (between U.S. and North Korean officials) suggests that North Korea takes this meeting very seriously. It also strongly suggests that time is running out for North Korea. Famine is forcing North Korea to conclude negotiations quickly....

"Even though North Korea is in a difficult position, (the United States) should not try to force concessions. The purpose of the talks should be to invite North Korea to join in a dialogue. The United States should persuade North Korea that the opening of liaison offices and adherence to the missile technology control regime are in Pyongyang's own self interest. The two nations agreed to continue periodic discussions at this level. That agreement in itself is meaningful. The absence of a U.S.-North Korean dialogue for almost two years contributed to the recent stalemate in U.S.- North Korean relations and increased tensions between North and South Korea.... North Korea should set up liaison offices promptly. North Korea is said to have delayed establishment of such offices because of financial problems, but the international trust that would be gained by opening liaison offices is far greater than North Korea imagines."

"Momentum Needed For Four-Party Talks"

Top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri editorialized (3/7), "North Korea's attendance at the briefing session, however, does not guarantee its participation in the four-party talks. The question now facing Washington and Seoul is how to get the North to join in formal talks. It would not be surprising if Pyongyang tried to win additional food aid and the easing of U.S. economic sanctions, while remaining ambiguous about the talks.... Unless the North abandons its strategy of trying to deal only with the United States, while ignoring the South, there is little hope for creating a new system of peace (on the Korean peninsula) even if the four countries do hold talks."

"Don't Entertain Any illusions About North Korea"

Conservative Sankei cautioned (3/7): "It may be appreciated that North Korea listened to the joint U.S.- South Korean briefing on the planned four-party talks for peace on the Korean peninsula. But we should not react exaggeratedly to it or entertain any illusions about Pyongyang. North Korea complied with the U.S. and South Korean request to attend the briefing session only because it wants to secure aid from the United States, South Korea and Japan, and survive its critical food shortage.

"In a word, Pyongyang is trying to prolong the life of its dictatorship by depending on foreign food aid."

AUSTRALIA: "Signs Of Hope For Ailing North Korea"

In the view of the liberal Canberra Times (3/6): "A North Korean strategy designed to weave compromises and postpone collapse or war is better for everybody in Asia. We can't actually be sure that that is Kim Jong II's strategy, but the decision to send a delegation to New York to be briefed yesterday on U.S.-South Korean proposals for talks on a permanent Korean peace treaty suggests that the right side (whoever they may be) is winning in Pyongyang."

INDONESIA: "A Fresh Wind Blows From Seoul"

The government-oriented Indonesian Observer commented (3/7): "South Korea's newly appointed Prime Minister Koh Kun has called upon senior government officials to say 'no,' a message that also holds good for their Indonesian counterparts.

Speaking at his inauguration ceremony, Premier Kun said: 'Now is the time for us to develop a sense of responsibility, self- esteem and enough conviction to say 'no' to something we know is wrong.' Indonesian officials should pay due attention to these words because more often than not, they have proved to be weak when it comes to kickbacks dangled before their noses by businessmen in exchange for their signatures on valuable projects and agreements....The prime minister has a moral right to speak about honesty, because he himself has experience suffering in his attempt uphold his principles.

Words such as responsibility, self-esteem and conviction have a special ring which should inspire officials in this country to mend their ways."

PHILIPPINES: "Under Siege"

An editorial in the independent, second largest-circulation Philippine Daily Inquirer put forth this view (3/9): "There are signs of cracks in the [Kim Jong Il] regime.... The North Korean regime is under siege by unsettling economic and political events. In response to these events, the regime has been driven to seek a political accommodation in the Korean peninsula.... Peace talks compel the two Koreas to consider unification as a more immediate issue rather than a remote one.... The immediate impact of the New York exploratory meeting is that the two sides have taken the initiative to manage or control the dynamics of unification before it takes its own course and leads to a sudden collapse of the economy and regime in the north. In Germany, unification...was forced by the crumbling of the Berlin Wall. In Korea, events could gain momentum and overtake the talks in their embryonic stage."

"Breakthrough In Korea"

Independent, second largest-circulation Philippine Daily Inquirer said in its lead editorial (3/9): "The talks, brokered by the United States, represented a breakthrough in the search of a political settlement between the two Koreas....

The meeting at least starts the process that may lead to the unification of the two Koreas--the last remnant of ideological division of the world.

"The threat of an imminent economic collapse and the rigors imposed by its international isolation have contributed to Pyongyang's decision to seriously explore the possibilities of ending the uneasy truce at the demilitarized zone. Whatever the reasons of the enigmatic and secretive leaders in North Korea, their decision to take part in the New York talks could have an effect on their habit of dangling over the heads of South Korea and United States the threat of nuclear war either to hide internal political turmoil or economic distress."

THAILAND: "Korea Peace Hopes At New York Talks"

The largest-circulation, moderately conservative Bangkok Post held (3/11): "The Korean peninsula is one of the world's most dangerous places. Not only does the unpredictable and furtive Pyongyang government pose a threat of sudden war, there is very real danger of a sudden implosion and collapse of North Korea. That would have devastating economic and social ramifications throughout Korea. There would also be ripple effects throughout Asia and the rest of the world, because South Korea would be crippled, trying to absorb and accommodate a wrecked North. All nations would be well advised to offer their good offices in this situation. Those with Pyongyang offices--including Thailand--should encourage North Korea to enter peace talks. The best chance of avoiding catastrophe in Korea is if Pyongyang agrees to enter world commerce and discourse. The New York talks are a unique chance to show North Korea the two options. The first is civilized discussion and bargaining. The other is to continue the country's currently ruinous course."

"Peace Prospects In Koreas"

Elite Naew Na's Charnnarit Boonparord expressed this view (3/7): "Peace prospects in the Korean peninsula shine brightly once again as both North and South Korean representatives sat down for talks in New York brokered by the United States. The positive development may partly be due to economic hardship and famine in North Korea, which clearly attests to the failure of self-isolation and communism to guarantee a sustainable life to a people. At any rate, the United States deserves credit if the effort leads to any fruitful result."

EUROPE

GERMANY: "Pyongyang On A Dual-Track Course"

Centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich told its readers (3/7): "It has been a long time since the North and the South Koreans acted as civilized as they did during their meeting in New York. The United States as mediator made it possible. As a reward, Washington and Seoul announced that they would give up plans for the Team Spirit' maneuver. The Beijing regime also commented positively on the meeting. All this gives reason for hope that...the gate for a dialogue will stay open.

"The purpose of the meeting was to inform Pyongyang about the proposal of a peace conference on Korea.... In April of last year, the United States had suggested such a conference. But it still remains unclear whether Pyongyang is really willing to talk about permanent peace on the Korean peninsula. Maybe, the North Koreans came to New York only because the United States and South Korea promised food aid, and because the North Koreans can continue talks with the United States on a bilateral basis. This is their true aim; a dual-track strategy which the Seoul government watches with distrust."

"Protracting"

Petra Kolonko had this to say in an editorial in right-of- center Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/7): "The North Korean envoys are masters in this field: for the slightest narrowing of views, they are able to wrest concessions from their negotiating partners. For more than a year, the Pyongyang regime had signaled its agreement in principle to four-party talks together with China and the United States, but it expressed an official interest only after the United States and South Korea offered the chance to obtain food supplies. Even during the first meeting of the envoys of the two Koreas...North Korea still did not give an official promise to take part in the peace talks, and it was probably also successful in the cancellation of the joint U.S.- South Korean maneuvers. Nevertheless, the meeting in New York is progress.

"The North Korean regime, which is plagued by economic difficulties and the flight of a high-ranking functionary, needs assistance from the outside and could now even be willing to make a compromise. However, we continue to wait in vain for a sign according to which Kim Jong Il's state will open up and initiate the necessary reforms in the country."

ITALY: "North-South Korean Thaw: First Talks In 25 Years"

Centrist Il Messaggero reported (3/6): "A thaw between North and South Korea has finally begun, thanks to the patient mediation of the United States.... This is a success for Madeleine Albright, who has managed to convince Seoul and Pyongyang to make this historic step forward."

SPAIN: "The Two Koreas Seek Final Peace In New York"

In the opinion of Jose Maria Calvo, writing for liberal El Pais (3/6): "The meeting ended with no great results.... But the mere fact that it took place is progress.... Washington and Seoul consider the conference as the ideal framework to solve the pending Cold War conflict."

SOUTH ASIA

INDIA: "Turbulent North Korea Sends Shock Waves"

The centrist Pioneer provided this analysis (3/11) by M.L. Sondhi, former professor of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University: "The frustration and disillusionment in North Korea resulting from its economic decline cannot be ignored even by those who were hypnotized by the concepts and rhetoric of Juche ideology, and allowed revolutionary fervor to sanction the systematic distortion of South Korean motivations and intentions.... Clearly there is a rapidly deteriorating and unpredictable situation in North Korea, but there is a certain irony in the position adopted by countries as differently placed as United States, Japan and China, all of whom tended to discount South Korean scenarios of North Korean collapse....

"There is no sure prescription about how the reconciliation between North and South can be achieved, but after the Hwang defection, the situation is destined to undergo many changes and modifications in the diplomatic give and take by both the countries.... While North Korea threatens to become gridlocked, South Korea has proceeded to dynamic engagement in world affairs.... Given the basically cordial relationship that South Korea enjoys with many countries with different political systems and divergent ideologies, it would not be wrong to assume that it is North Korea which will have to open up and bring itself into alignment with the global trend of economic reform and give up the confrontationism of the Cold War era."

"Acts Of Omission"

The centrist Times of India ran this analysis (3/9) by Tokyo correspondent Harvey Stockwin: "As South and North Korean plus U.S. diplomats gathered at a round table in New York this week to try and start the process of bringing peace to the war- threatened peninsula, (some) crucial omissions and oversights could be observed. First and foremost, no one said loud and clear that it was high time the Cold War was ended in Korea.

None of the three countries were represented by a sufficiently senior figure to forcefully make such a political statement...(and) no one around the table...reminded everybody that they were legally bound and committed to push forward the peace process without any further delay.... Last week's meeting was hardly a breakthrough....

"The (final) omission from last week's 'briefing' was any clearcut result. Beset by grave problems involving the very survival of their state, the North Koreans can (nevertheless) see that the United States is in a giving mood. So Pyongyang wants to see how much it can get before taking any strides towards peace."

IRAN: "DPRK Foreign Ministry Officials Condemn U.S. 'Bullying'

Tehran's official Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran broadcast this in English (3/8): "The North Korean deputy foreign minister, Jo U-Jin, has praised the brave resistance of the Iranian people...against the pressures of global arrogance, led by the United States.... Mr. Jo, who arrived in Tehran on Friday for an official visit heading a senior delegation, also underlined the necessity for other independent countries' opposition to America's arrogant policies, condemning the U.S. interference in the internal affairs of other countries. (Iran's deputy minister for Asia-Pacific affairs,) Mr. Borujerdi, for his part, stressed the normalization of ties between the two Koreas and prevention of tension in the Korean peninsula, saying: 'This is the duty of all independent states to stand against America's bullying and prove in practice that in the present world the unipolar system is not acceptable anymore.'"

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3/13/97