News

DATE=01/02/97
TYPE=U-S OPINION ROUNDUP
NUMBER=6-09956
TITLE=NORTH KOREA APOLOGIZES FOR THE SUBMARINE INCIDENT
BYLINE=ANDREW N. GUTHRIE
TELEPHONE=619-3335
DATELINE=WASHINGTON
EDITOR=NEAL LAVON

CONTENT=

INTRO: AT THE VERY END OF LAST YEAR, TENSIONS ON THE KOREAN PENINSULA SUBSIDED SLIGHTLY WITH AN APOLOGY FROM NORTH KOREA TO SOUTH KOREA FOR A SUBMARINE COMMANDO ATTACK. WHILE NOT USING THE EXACT WORD "APOLOGY," THE NORTH EXPRESSED REGRET FOR HAVING SENT A SMALL SUBMARINE WITH WELL-ARMED COMMANDOS INTO THE SOUTH.

THE INCIDENT SEVERAL MONTHS AGO, SET OFF A HUGE MANHUNT IN SOUTH KOREA UNTIL ALL THE ENEMY TROOPS WERE KILLED OR OTHERWISE ACCOUNTED FOR. NOW, THE U-S PRESS IS CAUTIOUSLY HAILING THE NORTH KOREAN COMMENT AS A FIRST STEP TOWARD NORMALIZING RELATIONS IN ONE OF ASIA'S HOTTEST FLASH POINTS.

WE GET A SAMPLING FROM __________________ IN TODAY'S U-S OPINION ROUNDUP.

TEXT: LAST SEPTEMBER, A NORTH KOREAN SUBMARINE WAS DISCOVERED STRANDED OFF THE NORTHERN COAST OF SOUTH KOREA. WITHIN HOURS, SEVERAL NORTH KOREAN TROOPS WERE FOUND DEAD ON A NEARBY BEACH, APPARENTLY AS A RESULT OF SUICIDE. FOR WEEKS, SOUTH KOREAN TROOPS SEARCHED THE REGION FOR OTHER COMMANDOS AND HUNTED DOWN SEVERAL OF THEM. DURING THE SEARCH, THE NORTH KOREAN COMMANDOS KILLED SOME SOUTH KOREAN CIVILIANS AS WELL AS A FEW PURSUING SOUTH KOREAN TROOPS.

AT FIRST THE NORTH HAD LITTLE TO SAY ABOUT THE INCIDENT, BUT FINALLY, AFTER LENGTHY BEHIND-THE-SCENES DIPLOMACY, PYONGYANG ADMITTED ITS ERROR IN PUBLIC. THE APOLOGY WAS GREETED WITH APPROVAL IN MUCH OF THE U-S PRESS, AND WE BEGIN OUR SAMPLING IN THE MIDWEST, WITH THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

VOICE: "NORTH KOREA COULDN'T QUITE BRING ITSELF TO USE THE WORLD 'APOLOGY' IN EXPRESSING REMORSE SUNDAY (12/29) FOR DISPATCHING A SUBMARINE FULL OF ARMED COMMANDOS INTO SOUTH KOREAN WATERS LAST FALL. AND JUST A DAY LATER, AN OFFICIAL FROM THE NORTH REVERTED TO THE OLD VITRIOL BY CALLING ITS NEIGHBOR 'THE ENEMY MURDERER.' BUT ON A DIVIDED ASIAN PENINSULA WHERE THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR WAR IS A DAILY REALITY, THE MERE EXPRESSION OF 'DEEP REGRET' FROM PYONGYANG FOR LAST SEPTEMBER'S SUBMARINE INCIDENT IS REASON FOR SOME OPTIMISM. COUPLED WITH SOUTH KOREA'S RETURN OF THE REMAINS OF TWO DOZEN OF THE INFILTRATORS, IT APPEARS TO SIGNAL THE BEGINNING OF A THAW IN NORTH-SOUTH RELATIONS."

TEXT: TURNING TO THE SOUTHWEST, THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE WAS ALSO PLEASED WITH THE RESPONSE, BUT WARY OF THE FUTURE AS WELL.

VOICE: "TESTIFYING RECENTLY BEFORE A CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE, OUTGOING C-I-A DIRECTOR JOHN DEUTCH WARNED THAT NORTH KOREA MIGHT BE THE MOST DANGEROUS THREAT TO U-S INTERESTS AND THOSE OF ITS ALLIES IN THE PACIFIC. IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS, HE SAID, NORTH KOREA WOULD EITHER ECONOMICALLY IMPLODE, LIKE THE SOVIET UNION BEFORE IT, OR IT WOULD USE ITS MILLION-MAN ARMY TO ATTACK SOUTH KOREA, OR IT WOULD PUT ITSELF ON A PATH TOWARD A LASTING PEACE ON THE KOREAN PENINSULA. NORTH KOREA'S APOLOGY .... FOR SENDING A SPY SUBMARINE INTO SOUTH KOREAN WATERS LAST SEPTEMBER OFFERS AT LEAST SLIM EVIDENCE THAT NORTH KOREA'S ROGUE GOVERNMENT MIGHT WANT TO PURSUE THE LAST OF THOSE THREE ALTERNATIVES. ....[OPT] THE .... APOLOGY IS ALSO GOOD NEWS FOR PRESIDENT CLINTON, WHO WAS CRITICIZED DURING THE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN FOR BEING TOO LENIENT WITH NORTH KOREA. THE APOLOGY AND THE PROSPECT OF LESSENING TENSIONS ALONG THE 38TH PARALLEL LEND STRENGTH TO [MR.] CLINTON'S GROWING REPUTATION FOR BEING LUCKY IN THE CONDUCT OF U-S FOREIGN POLICY."[END OPT]

TEXT: IN THE VIEW OF THE WASHINGTON POST, THE APOLOGY IS GOOD NEWS, BUT THE PAPER WARNS READERS, IT PROBABLY NEVER WOULD HAVE BEEN OFFERED IF THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL SITUATION IN NORTH KOREA WERE NOT NEAR CRISIS.

VOICE: "NOTHING WOULD HAVE WORKED, OF COURSE, IF THE NORTH HAD NOT BEEN IN PROFOUND CRISIS. NOT ONLY ARE WIDE PARTS OF THE COUNTRY ON THE VERGE OF STARVATION FROM MISMANAGEMENT AND FLOODING. THE END OF THE COLD WAR COST THE NORTH THE PATRONAGE OF CHINA AND RUSSIA AND LEFT IT BEREFT OF CONTACTS WITH ALL BUT A FEW ROGUE STATES. ITS DIRE STRAITS EVIDENTLY PROMPTED A TUG OF WAR WITHIN THE SECRETIVE LEADERSHIP. [OPT] ONE FACTION - - CALL IT THE SUBMARINE FACTION - - COUNSELED THE FAMILIAR DEFIANCE AND SELF-RELIANCE. ANOTHER FACTION -- IT NOW SEEMS TO HAVE PREVAILED - - FAVORED TESTING THE BENEFITS OF COMING IN OUT OF THE COLD. [END OPT] ..... PYONGYANG MAY NOT HAVE DECIDED YET JUST HOW FAR TO GO ON THIS ROAD. THE LEADERSHIP IS BOUND TO BE WARY OF MOVING DOWN AN ECONOMIC PATH THAT MAY EVENTUALLY PUT AT RISK ITS OWN POWER. BUT THE ALTERNATIVE OF NOT MOVING APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN FOUND UNTENABLE."

TEXT: THERE WERE DISSENTERS TO THE PREVAILING WISDOM THAT THE APOLOGY IS A GOOD SIGN, AND ONE, THE NEW YORK POST, CALLED THE APOLOGY "PHONY."

VOICE: "WE DON'T GET IT. [UNDERSTAND IT] NORTH KOREA, ARGUABLY THE MOST TRUCULENT NATION ON THE GLOBE, SENDS A COMMANDO-LADEN SUBMARINE INTO SOUTH KOREAN WATERS - - A CLEAR-CUT ACT OF WAR. CAUGHT, PYONGYANG ADOPTS A GO-TO-HELL ATTITUDE THAT LASTS FOR MONTHS AND THEN - - ONLY BECAUSE ITS PEOPLE ARE FREEZING AND THE NATION IS ON THE VERGE OF FAMINE - - FINALLY EXPRESSES 'REGRET.' AND WASHINGTON SAYS, IN EFFECT, THAT ALL IS FORGIVEN? NO PLEDGE TO QUIT SELLING BALLISTIC-MISSILE TECHNOLOGY TO OTHER THIRD WORLD DICTATORSHIPS? NOT EVEN A PROMISE NOT TO SEND MORE COMMANDOS SOUTH?"

TEXT: IN FLORIDA, ON THE OTHER HAND, THE ORLANDO SENTINEL SEES THE APOLOGY AS A GOOD SIGN, CALLING IT "AN ENCOURAGING SIGNAL [PROVIDING] A BOOST ... FOR THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION'S POLICY TOWARD NORTH KOREA.

VOICE: ".... THE SUBMARINE INCIDENT WAS PARTICULARLY PROVOCATIVE BECAUSE THE NORTH KOREAN TEAM APPEARED READY TO INFILTRATE THE SOUTH - - JUST AS NORTH KOREA WAS BEGINNING TO OPEN TO THE WORLD AND OTHER COUNTRIES WERE HELPING NORTH KOREA WITH ITS ENERGY CRISIS AND OTHER ECONOMIC PROBLEMS. ..... TO THE EXTENT THAT NORTH KOREA SHOWS IT IS READY TO BEHAVE RESPONSIBLY, THE UNITED STATES SHOULD ACKNOWLEDGE THOSE DEVELOPMENTS AND OPEN FURTHER THE DOOR TO BETTER RELATIONS."

TEXT: THE BOSTON GLOBE CALLS THE APOLOGY "A WELCOME REDUCTION OF TENSION IN ASIA AS WELL AS A LAUDABLE DIPLOMATIC ACHIEVEMENT BY THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION." AND IN BALTIMORE, THE SUN SUGGESTS:

VOICE: "ASIA WILL BE A SAFER PLACE IF THE RAPPROCHEMENT (RAP-PROASH-MAHN) BETWEEN NORTH KOREA AND THE WEST THAT TENTATIVELY APPEARED AT THE END OF THE OLD YEAR IS MADE MORE VIGOROUS IN THE NEW. [OPT] IN THE LAST DAYS OF 1996, THE CRISIS BETWEEN OBSCURANTIST AND DESPERATELY POOR NORTH KOREA WITH PROSPEROUS BUT DOMESTICALLY PREOCCUPIED SOUTH KOREA STARTED TO COOL DOWN. THE HEIGHTENED TENSION ALONG THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE WAS EASING. .... [END OPT] IN THIS CONTEXT, IT IS DISCONCERTING THAT THE U-S AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA, JAMES LANEY, HAS RESIGNED ..... JUST WHEN POLICIES IDENTIFIED WITH HIM ARE BEARING FRUIT."

TEXT: AND ON THAT NOTE, WE CONCLUDE THIS SAMPLING OF AMERICAN EDITORIAL OPINION ON THE RECENT APOLOGY OF NORTH KOREA REGARDING THE COMMANDO SUBMARINE INCIDENT.

NEB/ANG/NL