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Tracking Number:  132252

Title:  "US Role in Korean Tension-Reduction Limited." Article on telepress conference with Stephen Solarz, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee for Asia and Pacific Affairs. (900315)

Author:  MORSE, JANE A (USIA STAFF WRITER)
Date:  19900315

Text:
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03/15/90 * U.S. ROLE IN KOREAN TENSION-REDUCTION LIMITED (Article on Solarz telepress conference with Taegu) (880) By Jane A. Morse USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- The U.S. role in easing tensions on the Korean peninsula is limited -- the primary responsibility lies with Seoul and Pyongyang, according to Rep. Stephen Solarz (Democrat of New York), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee for Asian and Pacific Affairs.

The United States has, however, been making an effort to reach out to North Korea in order to create "a climate more conducive to peace on the peninsula," he said during a telepress conference March 14 between Washington, D.C. and Taegu, Korea.

In response to questions from Professor Lee Jung-O, professor of sociology at Keimyung University, Solarz noted that in the last two years the United States has encouraged unofficial and nongovernmental visits by North Korean citizens to the United States as well as facilitated travel by American citizens to North Korea. American officials have been authorized to engage in "substantive discussions" with North Korean officials in neutral settings. And commercial exports of medical supplies, food and clothing have been permitted for basic human needs.

"I have to say that I am not overly optimistic that these efforts are likely to produce any significantly positive results," Solarz said of the American overtures. As long as the current North Korean government remains in power and continues to cling to current policies, there is not much hope for reduction of tensions, he said.

"Nevertheless, I think we should leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of peace," he added. "Therefore, we should continue our effort to search for ways to reduce tension on the Korean peninsula."

The congressman emphasized, however, that the American presence in the South Korea continues because the government in Seoul requests it. "Anything we do vis a vis North Korea can and will be done only in consultation with the government of South Korea," he said.

Solarz explained that he believes the North Korean government fears humanitarian exchanges because such actions in its mind would reinforce permanent division of the peninsula.

But Solarz argued that family visits, the exchange of mail, and trade would help soften the harsh consequences of the division and create a climate of confidence which would facilitate real progress toward reunification.

According to the congressman, as long as Kim Il Sung or his son Kim Jong Il hold government power, North Korean policy towards the South is unlikely to change. But Solarz speculated that the son -- if and when he takes his

GE 2 epf404 father's place -- may not be able to maintain control of the regime should his father pass from the scene.

Solarz noted that Germany is on the verge of reunification because parliamentary democracy replaced a Stalinist dictatorship in East Germany. If the repressive communist regime in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea were to lose its grip, he said, the same dramatic changes that occurred in Eastern European countries might well be possible in North Korea.

In response to questions from Song In-Joo, deputy managing editor of the Taegu newspaper "Yeongnam Ilbo," Solarz said the reduction in U.S. troops slated to take place over the next few years does not reduce American commitment nor military capability. The deterrent value of American troops in South Korea will remain as strong as ever, he said, and the U.S. Congress recognizes that this deterrent must remain for as long as needed.

Solarz said the annual joint U.S.-Republic of Korea military exercises known as "Team Spirit" are a tangible sign of American commitment. "The purpose of these exercises is not to prepare for a war of aggression but to lend credibility to American commitment to South Korea and to deter the North from launching a war," he said.

The United States and the Republic of Korea, as a confidence-building measure and demonstration of peaceful intentions, have invited North Korean officials to observe these exercises. To date, North Korea has declined the offer. Solarz said North Korean allegations that the exercises pose a threat to its security are simply not credible in view of the fact that the North's military forces and material significantly out number those of the South.

When asked about the human rights situation in the Republic of Korea, Solarz said conditions under President Roh Tae-Woo are much improved but far from perfect. Among Korea's accomplishments in this regard, Solarz noted the free and fair direct presidential election, a much freer press, and a parliament in which the opposition enjoys a very significant representation and vigorous debate.

But Solarz said he was concerned that there has been a rather significant increase in the number of political prisoners over the past year. "And I am also concerned about the apparent lack of progress in revising the national security law despite repeated statements by the government that it intended to do so," he said.

He added that "recognizing that Korea is a fully sovereign country, the policy of the United States is to applaud the progress that has already taken place while simultaneously calling upon the government to make further progress toward the establishment of a fully free society." NNNN


File Identification:  03/15/90, EP-404
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Keywords:  SOLARZ, STEPHEN J; HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS CMTE; KOREA (SOUTH)-US RELATIONS; MILITARY AGREEMENTS; KOREA (NORTH)-KOREA (SOUTH) RELATIONS; HUMAN RIGHTS; POLITICAL PRISONERS
Thematic Codes:  1EA; 2HA
Target Areas:  EA
PDQ Text Link:  132252