TITLE=NORTH - SOUTH KOREA SUMMIT
INTRO: American experts on Korean issues say a summit
between the leaders of North and South Korea could go
a long way toward easing tensions between the two
countries. But as V-O-A's Stephanie Mann reports, the
experts say they have only modest expectations, given
the history of talks between two countries that are
still technically at war.
TEXT: Korea specialists in the United States say the
planned summit in June between North Korean leader Kim
Jong-il and South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung is a
very significant development.
Kongdan Oh, a Korea specialist at the Institute for
Defense Analysis (in Virginia, just outside Washington
D-C) says if the meeting occurs, it will be a positive
move and an historic event. Ms. Oh says since Korea
was divided more than 50 years ago, the two sides have
held various talks, but never above the level of prime
/// OH ACT ONE ///
But the heads of the two states have never met
in history. And in contemporary Korean history,
particularly the tragic division of the Korean
peninsula, this is maybe the most important
political and diplomatic move to sit down
together and to discuss how to resolve the so-
called Korea question.
/// END ACT ///
When the Korean War ended in 1953, the two sides
agreed to a truce, but a peace treaty was never
signed, and tensions have remained high. South Korea
has consistently called for a direct North-South
dialogue, but Pyongyang has preferred to negotiate
with the United States, calling Seoul an American
Ms. Oh says Pyongyang and Seoul probably agreed now to
holding a summit because each side sees ways it can
/// OH ACT TWO ///
For example, North Korea badly needs fertilizer,
grain aid, economic aid without much political
strings attached - particularly from South
Korea, because other countries are very slow to
come with aid packages. And so, maybe North
Korea saw that South Korea is eager to do that
and they accepted it.
/// END ACT ///
For South Korea, Ms. Oh says domestic politics are
probably the motivation for the timing of the summit.
She notes the South is holding parliamentary elections
this week and says this announcement may help boost
support for the ruling party in Seoul.
The director of Asian Studies at Georgetown University
(in Washington), David Steinberg, agrees both
countries stand to gain if the summit is held in mid-
June, as planned. But Professor Steinberg cautions
that North Korea has a history of canceling such
/// STEINBERG ACT ONE ///
Whenever the North Koreans are included in some
sort of important meeting, or even academic
meeting, they often do not show (up) for reasons
that seem obscure to the outside world.
Remember that at the end of March, a high level
North Korean was to come to Washington, and that
trip was postponed indefinitely.
/// END ACT ///
If the summit goes forward, Professor Steinberg says
the two sides may discuss ways to lessen tensions on
the Korean peninsula, including specific steps such as
direct mail exchange, more direct trade, and contacts
between family members separated for 50 years.
Mr. Steinberg says North Korea's agreement to hold a
summit at this time seems to be part of a new
atttitude in Pyongyang -- a desire to engage with the
rest of the world.
/// STEINBERG ACT TWO ///
They've just normalized relations with Italy.
They are talking to Australia and the
Philippines. They are talking seriously with
the United States. And they are now talking
about normalization with Japan, which is
probably the most significant in terms of money.
So, there is a concerted effort on the part of
North Korea to expand its international
/// END ACT///
Professor Steinberg says it is important for the
United States and other countries to encourage the
dialogue between North and South Korea, because he
says many countries stand to benefit from a more
peaceful Korean peninsula. (Signed)
10-Apr-2000 12:10 PM EDT (10-Apr-2000 1610 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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