Voice of America 3/5/97 KOREAN TALKS
BYLINE=MAX RUSTON
DATELINE=NEW YORK

INTRO: NORTH KOREA AND SOUTH KOREA TOOK A NEW STEP TODAY (WEDNESDAY) TOWARD EASING LONGSTANDING TENSION ON THE KOREAN PENINSULA. REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE TWO COUNTRIES MET IN NEW YORK WITH A SENIOR U-S OFFICIAL TO TALK ABOUT PROPOSED TALKS ON A PERMANENT PEACE ARRANGEMENT BETWEEN THE TWO ADVERSARIES. V-O-A'S MAX RUSTON HAS MORE FROM NEW YORK.

TEXT: A U-S SPOKESMAN SAYS THE DAY-LONG TALKS BEGAN IN A PLEASANT ATMOSPHERE. HE SAYS NEGOTIATORS SHOOK HANDS AND THE REPRESENTATIVES FROM NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA EXCHANGED WHAT HE DESCRIBES AS SMALL TALK BEFORE THE DISCUSSIONS BEGAN. HE SAYS AT ONE POINT, TO SYMBOLIZE THEIR WISH FOR PEACE, THE NEGOTIATORS FROM NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA HELD HANDS.

THE TALKS ARE ONE OF THE FIRST CONCRETE STEPS IN RESPONSE TO A PROPOSAL MADE LAST YEAR DURING PRESIDENT CLINTON'S BRIEF VISIT TO SOUTH KOREA. U-S STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN KEN BAILES SAYS IF THESE TALKS ARE SUCCESSFUL, FUTURE DISCUSSIONS COULD BE BROADENED TO INCLUDE CHINA.

/// BAILES ACT ///

THE PROPOSAL WAS MADE TO NORTH KOREA BY THE UNITED STATES AND SOUTH KOREA BY PRESIDENT CLINTON AND PRESIDENT KIM YOUNG-SAM FOR FOUR PARTY PEACE TALKS THAT WOULD INCLUDE THE UNITED STATES, SOUTH KOREA, NORTH KOREA AND CHINA FOR DISCUSSIONS ON A PERMANENT PEACE ARRANGEMENT TO REPLACE THE ARMISTICE.

/// END ACT ///

THE ARMISTICE LED TO A CESSATION OF FIGHTING IN THE 1950 TO 1953 KOREAN WAR. BUT, SINCE THEN, THE REGION HAS BECOME ONE OF THE MOST HEAVILY MILITARIZED AND VOLATILE IN THE WORLD. HUNDREDS-OF-THOUSANDS OF SOLDIERS FROM SOUTH KOREA, NORTH KOREA AND THE UNITED STATES LINE THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE DIVIDING THE TWO COUNTRIES. WESTERN SECURITY CONCERNS ABOUT THE REGION HAVE RECENTLY INCREASED AS A RESULT OF FOOD SHORTAGES, HIGH-LEVEL DEFECTIONS AND A REPORTED LACK OF STABLE LEADERSHIP IN NORTH KOREA.

/// OPT ///

THE ARMISTICE WAS SIGNED IN 1953 BY REPRESENTATIVES OF NORTH KOREA, CHINA AND THE UNITED NATIONS, WHICH ESTABLISHED A PEACEKEEPING FORCE IN THE REGION KNOWN AS THE UNITED NATIONS COMMAND. THE UNITED STATES AND SOUTH KOREA WERE NOT FORMAL SIGNATORIES BUT HAVE ADHERED TO IT THROUGH THE UNITED NATIONS COMMAND. /// END OPT ///

IN THE NEW YORK TALKS, HELD IN A HOTEL CONFERENCE ROOM, NORTH KOREA WAS REPRESENTED BY A VICE-MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS. SOUTH KOREA'S DELEGATION WAS HEADED BY THE COUNTRY'S DEPUTY MINISTER FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS AND THE UNITED STATES' NEGOTIATOR WAS A DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EAST ASIAN AFFAIRS. U-S OFFICIALS SAY THE TALKS WERE FORMALLY CALLED A "JOINT BRIEFING."

OFFICIALS FROM NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA HAVE MET PERIODICALLY SINCE THE 1950'S. BUT THE LATEST MEETING MARKS THE FIRST TIME THEY HAVE SAT TOGETHER TO DISCUSS ARMISTICE ISSUES. IN THE PAST, NORTH KOREA HAS DEMANDED THE ARMISTICE BE REPLACED WITH A PEACE TREATY WITH THE UNITED STATES. BUT WASHINGTON AND SEOUL HAVE INSISTED THAT THE ISSUE BE DEALT WITH DIRECTLY BETWEEN THE NORTH AND SOUTH. (SIGNED)

NEB/NY/MPR/LSF /MMK

05-Mar-97 3:32 PM EST (2032 UTC)
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