DATE=6/13/2000 TYPE=U-S OPINION ROUNDUP TITLE=HISTORIC KOREAN SUMMIT BEGINS NUMBER=6-11870 BYLINE=ANDREW GUTHRIE DATELINE=WASHINGTON EDITOR=ASSIGNMENTS TELEPHONE=619-3335 INTERNET=YES CONTENT= INTRO: The leaders of North and South Korea, two countries that are still formally at war, began their much-anticipated summit meeting on Tuesday. Some analysts say the discussions between North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and South Korean President Kim Dae- Jung could signal dramatic changes in the government of North Korea. We get a sampling of U-S press comment now from _____________ in today's U-S Opinion Roundup. TEXT: President Kim received what the Los Angeles Times described as "a hero's welcome" when he landed at Sunan Airport in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. While Western and South Korean media are barred from attending, television pictures from the North are being monitored at the Seoul Press Center by Korean and world journalists. The meeting is being conducted in such secrecy, that even the agenda has not been published. But as several U-S papers point out, the very fact that the two men are speaking to each other, much less actually meeting face to face, is something that just a few years ago would have seemed inconceivable. We begin our sampling of comment in the southeastern United States, where the Florida Times-Union writes: VOICE: ...there is reason for optimism because North Korea seems to be shedding its "hermit kingdom" image. Its participation in the summit alone is quite remarkable since it refused until recently even to talk with the South ... Also, Kim Jong-Il's regime recently opened diplomatic relations with Italy and Australia - - and it may soon also exchange ambassadors with traditional enemy Japan, which not long ago it was threatening to obliterate with nuclear weapons. TEXT: The New York Times, calling the meetings "an encouraging change in ... relationship," is also pleased, but the paper notes: VOICE: Unfortunately, North Korea's government remains one of the world's most opaque and unpredictable. Expectations for specific agreements coming out of the meetings should not be set too high. South Korea's main goals in these talks ... include reaching agreement on additional high-level meetings, expanding economic exchanges and arranging for the reunification of millions of families divided since the Korean War. ... North Korea's development of long-range missiles, coupled with its diplomatic aloofness and unpredictable behavior, was the leading reason behind the Clinton administration's efforts to develop defensive technologies capable of protecting the United States from a limited missile attack. Those concerns remain valid. But as North Korea begins to reach out from its self-imposed isolation, there are grounds for hoping that one day it may not longer need to be treated as a dangerous rogue state. TEXT: Boston's Christian Science Monitor is also intrigued by the summit, adding: VOICE: With so much military tension, it's a sign of courage that the North's Kim Jong-Il and the south's Kim Dae-Jung plan to meet today. Even if they just agree to open mail service for divided families, this first ever Korean summit will have been a triumph of hope over despair. It has been the South Korean president's hope that the North's leaders feel secure enough to end their fearful and hermitlike isolation. He has been a dove among the anti-North hawks in both Seoul and Washington. His "sunshine policy' of engagement with the North made it easier for Kim Jong- Il to open the door for foreign investment that will uplift a dismal economy. ... This summit will be a pivotal test to see if the trust in a new North Korea can be reciprocated. TEXT: Finally, Southern California's biggest daily, the San Diego Union-Tribune, writes. VOICE: Those who think Syria's leader designate, Bashar al-Assad, is more likely to make peace with Israel than his father, Hafez, should be sobered by the lesson of North Korea's Kim Jong-Il. Six years after his father, Kim Il-Sung, died, Kim Jong-Il only this week meets with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Dae-jung ... Backward dictatorships move at their own speed, striving first to consolidate power before risking new directions in foreign policy. Syria, being less backward and dictatorial than North Korea, should not have to wait as long. In North Korea, leader Kim Il-Sung was preparing the first-ever pan- Korean summit in July 1994 when he died. For six years, the meeting has been on hold. ... A half- century of hostility has turned North Korea into a place of poverty and deprivation, while South Korea has thrived. There are reasons to believe Kim Jong-Il may be ready to break the ice. If the North Koreans are serious, the meetings this week will produce confidence-building measures. Two obvious steps by which to judge Pyongyang's seriousness are family reunification and a return summit in Seoul. TEXT: On that note, we conclude this sampling of early U-S editorial reaction to the summit underway this week in Pyongyang. NEB/ANG/KL 13-Jun-2000 17:00 PM EDT (13-Jun-2000 2100 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
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