DATE=6/14/2000 TYPE=U-S OPINION ROUNDUP TITLE=THE TWO KOREAS SUMMIT NUMBER=6-11872 BYLINE=ANDREW GUTHRIE DATELINE=WASHINGTON TELEPHONE=619-3335 INTERNET=YES CONTENT= INTRO: The eyes of much of the world have been focused on the North Korean capital of Pyongyang this week, where an historic summit is taking place between the leaders of North and South Korea. We get a sampling of U-S press comment on the summit from ___________ in today's U-S Opinion Roundup. TEXT: The meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung could spell the beginning of the end of the isolationist stance long adhered to by Mr. Kim's father, Kim Il Sung. The summit opened Tuesday as South Korean President Kim received what the Los Angeles Times described as "a hero's welcome" when he landed at Sunan Airport in the North's capital. TEXT: One veteran reporter watching with interest is Holger Jensen, senior international affairs columnist of Denver's Rocky Mountain News. Just before the summit, he suggested guarded optimism, as he compares the two nations, and reminds readers of their past hostility. VOICE: With American help, South Korea has become one of the world's richest nations.... North Korea is one of the world's poorest [nations] with a per capita income of about one-dollar-fifty cents [U-S] a day. Its economy has been devastated by the loss of Soviet subsidies and shrinking barter trade with China, edged out by the hard currency of South Korea. Crippling fuel shortages cause repeated blackouts in the northern capital of Pyongyang. Industries are running at half speed if at all. Famine has killed an estimated two million people in the past five years and aid workers report seeing North Koreans eating leaves and bark to survive. Yet despite all signs of a looming collapse, North Korea maintains the world's fourth-largest standing army and its 10-thousand artillery pieces could turn the southern capital of Seoul into a sea of fire. ... after a half century of unremitting hostility between North and South Korea ... Washington is by no means hopeful of instant rapprochement between North and South. And Seoul expects no major breakthroughs. TEXT: In Eastern Pennsylvania, Allentown's Morning Call describes the conference as "momentous," and suggests the "talks are [a] good start for [a] stable future." VOICE: The historic ... summit is unprecedented, the first meeting between the leaders of the two countries in the 55 years since the Korean Peninsula was divided after World War Two, in the early days of the Cold War. Certainly the enigmatic North Korean government remains a serious concern, so the Clinton administration is right to be cautiously optimistic as the two Korean nations take [small] steps toward one another. ///OPT /// ... North Korea has been reaching out diplomatically in ways previously unimaginable, trying to improve relations with Europe and Japan, in addition to the United States and South Korea. Last month, Kim Jong-Il met China's leaders in Beijing and next month Vladimir Putin is expected to become the first top Russian leader ever to visit North Korea. Dialogue and engagement are critical if North Korea is ever to change itself from the status of an untrusted rogue nation. /// END OPT /// TEXT: In the port city of Baltimore, The Sun headlines its commentary "Destiny comes to Pyongyang," suggesting that the "Summit holds hopes of bringing [the] tyrannical North out of desperate poverty and isolation. While, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Star Tribune compares this unlikely event with another historic first. VOICE: South Koreans who watched their leader set foot in North Korea Tuesday must have felt the way Americans did when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon. In fact, the event may have carried more meaning because President Kim Dae-Jung carried with him the emotions and hopes of families divided for half a century. Through the lifetimes of most in the South, North Korea has been, like the moon, impossibly remote even when visible. /// OPT /// ...The summit offers the best reason yet to hope that North Korea will live up to its commitments to rein in its weapons programs and join the world community. Better still, it may hasten the day when the name "Korea' requires no reference to the compass. /// END OPT /// TEXT: The Chicago Tribune is noting the long and cordial handshake the two presidents exchanged at the Pyongyang airport, before voicing cautious optimism on the substance of the talks. VOICE: Where they go from here will be difficult and uncertain, but clearly the reclusive, Stalinist regime of North Korean President Kim Jong Il is trying to ease the isolation of his famine-ravaged hermit kingdom and start a cautious process of reconciliation with South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung. For democratic South Korea, living across the 38th parallel from one of the most dangerous and unpredictable regimes in the world, it is also very much in Seoul's interest to end the state of war that has existed since the 1950-53 Korean War. ... It is too early to talk of normalizing relations, but if North Korea's conduct continues to improve, there may be hope for ending one of the Cold War's last battles. TEXT: The Miami Herald tries to explain why this summit came about now, after such a long and hostile history. VOICE: North Korea President Kim Jong Il's willingness to talk may reflect his desperation for an economic stimulus, or it may represent recognition that isolationism isn't working. President Kim Dae-Jung of South Korea, whose country is a thriving example of capitalism, wisely has dangled the carrot of economic assistance. He also boldly has asserted his vision for reconciliation and reunification of the two countries. ... No one should expect these talks to result in any dramatic new initiatives. If they only set the stage for further discussions and contact, much will have been accomplished. An entrenched and belligerent adversary will have been persuaded to try peaceful dialogue. /// REST OPTIONAL /// TEXT: In the southeastern United States, Jacksonville's 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 cautious, noting: VOICE: Never before have North and South Korea come this close to a normal, peaceful relationship. ... 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, which are scheduled to run through Thursday ... 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: On that note, we conclude this sampling of early U-S editorial reaction to the historic pan- Korean summit underway this week in Pyongyang. NEB/ANG/KL 14-Jun-2000 14:34 PM EDT (14-Jun-2000 1834 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
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