DATE=4/10/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=NORTH - SOUTH KOREA SUMMIT NUMBER=5-46105 BYLINE=STEPHANIE MANN DATELINE=WASHINGTON INTERNET=YES CONTENT= VOICED AT: 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 minister. /// 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 puppet. Ms. Oh says Pyongyang and Seoul probably agreed now to holding a summit because each side sees ways it can benefit. /// 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 events. /// 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 contacts. /// 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) NEB/SMN/KL 10-Apr-2000 12:10 PM EDT (10-Apr-2000 1610 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
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