TYPE=U-S OPINION ROUNDUP
TITLE=HISTORIC KOREAN SUMMIT BEGINS
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
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
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.
13-Jun-2000 17:00 PM EDT (13-Jun-2000 2100 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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