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NORTH-SOUTH KOREA: CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM BUILDS IN ADVANCE OF JUNE SUMMIT

The announcement last month that South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-il, would meet for a "historic" summit in Panmunjon in early June--the first direct, top-level contact between the two sides since the Korean Peninsula was divided in 1945--set off a spate of editorial comment in the overseas media. Initially, the vast majority of writers viewed the summit as offering the prospect of a "major reduction" in tensions in one of the world's "most intractable security hot spots," but voiced strong skepticism that the meeting would actually take place. Tokyo's liberal Asahi, for example, noted--as did many others, including editorialists in Seoul--that "excessive optimism cannot be warranted, given the many twists and turns which have occurred between the two Koreas in the past." Warning that "words are cheap" as far as North Korea is concerned, Singapore's pro-government Straits Times chimed in, cautioning: "There's many a slip between cup and lip.... The world should not be surprised if the North, just as suddenly, calls off the talks for no good reason." As preparations for the bilateral meeting got underway, however--with the third round of preparatory talks concluding today amid plans to resume again on Monday--observers began to temper their wariness, arguing instead that Pyongyang appeared to be "serious" about the upcoming summit. The question now, stressed Seoul's independent Dong-A Ilbo, "is no longer whether the summit will actually take place; it is why the North wants it." Postings on North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) website, however, continued to offer regular barbs aimed at the U.S. and South Korea's alleged "warmongering" on the Korean Peninsula, along with a few factual releases on the preparatory talks and the text of the North-South agreement announcing the summit. Highlights in commentary follow:

KCNA WEBSITE, WINDOW INTO AN 'OPAQUE REGIME': Despite recent news reports that North Korean negotiators discussing plans for the June summit have begun to shed their "abrasive image," the official KCNA Internet site carried a steady stream of anti-U.S. diatribes. Some charged that the U.S. "deliberately" stages "war maneuvers" on the peninsula "whenever there [is a] mounting desire for reunification" between North and South Korea. One recent commentary did allow, however, that "the Korean people do not want to see the U.S. remaining their sworn enemy." That editorial and others urged that, in order to demonstrate that the U.S. "stands for peace," it should withdraw all its forces from South Korea. KCNA also put forth a positive assessment of the preparatory talks, saying that they "bring all the fellow countrymen a bright hope and fresh confidence in national reunification."

ANALYZING THE NORTH'S MOTIVES: Most commentators judged that North Korea's dire economic situation was Pyongyang's primary motivation for agreeing to a summit. Some, including independent dailies in South Korea and several in Europe, judged that the North was eager to emerge from its "Cold War isolation" and credited the South Korean president's "sunshine policy" and U.S. diplomacy as having helped move it in that direction.

EDITOR: Kathleen J. Brahney

EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey is based on 49 reports from 19 countries, April 10 - May 3. Editorial excerpts are grouped by region; editorials from each country are listed from the most recent date.

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

NORTH KOREA: "Expression Of Curse And Resentment At Aggressor Forces"

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency's Internet site held (5/2): "The sharply increasing cases of threatened bomb attack on the U.S. forces' bases and installations in South Korea are an expression of the South Korean people's curse and resentment at the U.S. aggressor forces in South Korea, says (workers' newspaper) Rodong Sinmun today in a signed commentary.... 'An anti-U.S. struggle is mounting and U.S. military bases and installations in South Korea are becoming its targets. This is a manifestation of the firm determination of the South Korean people to...give vent to the pent-up grudge against the ogreish United States and live in happiness and peace in the world free from aggressors. Today the U.S. military bases and facilities are exposed to the threat of bomb attacks. They will be blown up tomorrow. The United States should withdraw its aggression troops from South Korea to put an end to its anachronistic policy of military presence there. This is the demand of the entire Korean nation and the times."

"Withdrawal Of U.S. Forces From S. Korea Urged"

Official KCNA offered this (4/29) on its Internet site: "Dailies here today in signed commentaries echo voices demanding the withdrawal of the U.S. forces stationed overseas which are growing louder worldwide.... [Workers' newspaper] Rodong Sinmun demands [that] the United States drop its anachronistic policy of stationing its forces overseas rejected everywhere. It goes on: A climate is now being created for the reconciliation between the North and South of Korea and peace on the Korean peninsula. This offers the best opportunity for the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from South Korea. The Korean people do not want to see the United States remaining their sworn enemy. An earlier withdrawal of its forces, the better for the United States either [sic]. The U.S. attitude toward the pullback of its forces...will serve as a yardstick showing whether it stands for peace or not. Minju Joson says the U.S. forces' withdrawal from South Korea would...bring about a positive change in untying the long-standing knots of DPRK-U.S. relations. The United States is well advised to face up to the trend of the times and make a right decision."

"Second Preparatory Contact: Both Sides Had Sincere Discussions"

Official KCNA's Internet website featured this commentary (4/27): "The head of the North side laid a particular stress on the need to adopt working procedures for the Pyongyang meeting and summit talks in such a way as to make the meeting...produce good results, and bring all the fellow countrymen a bright hope and fresh confidence in national reunification.... Calling attention to the fact that the draft tallies with the character and mission of the soon-to-be-held meeting...and [takes] into full consideration the proposal made by the South side at the first contact, he expressed the expectation that the South side would agree to it. Both sides had sincere discussions on working procedural matters."

"U.S.-South Korean War Maneuvers Under Fire"

Official KCNA posted this on its Internet site (4/20): "[Workers' newspaper] Rodong Sinmun...lashed out at the aggressive war exercise called 'reception, staging, onward movement and integration exercise' the United States is staging together with the South Korean warmongers.

"The commentary terms this exercise as a reckless military drill aimed to throw a wet blanket over the ardent desire of the Korean people for national reunification, escalate confrontation and ignite the second Korean war. Recalling that whenever there [has been a] mounting desire for reunification and signs of detente on the Korean peninsula, the United States deliberately aggravated the situation and opted for harassing peace, the commentary noted: 'It is because of the United States that the Korean peninsula remains....fraught with the greatest danger of war in the world.... If the United States truly wishes peace on the Korean peninsula and improved relations between the North and the South, it must halt all the military maneuvers targeted against the DPRK, refrain from driving the South Korean warmongers to moves to invade the North and withdraw its forces from South Korea."

"U.S., South Korean Warmongers Step Up Preparations For Bio-Chemical War"

Official KCNA also featured this on its Internet site (4/20): "[The United States and South Korea's] talk about the 'threat of bio-chemical attack' from the DPRK...is part of their moves to stifle and isolate it, as it was the case with their fuss about 'nuclear threat' and 'missile threat.' This is nothing but a pretext to justify their preparations for a bio-chemical war. The U.S. and South Korean authorities should immediately stop such reckless moves as preparations for a bio-chemical war, clearly mindful that they will lead them to self-destruction.'"

"Korean People And Army Will Retaliate Against Provocation By Enemy"

Official KCNA had this on its Internet site (4/13): "The spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of the DPRK denounced the United States for planning to start a week-long maneuver for a war of aggression called 'reception, staging, onward movement and integration exercise' together with the South Korean authorities on April 15 and demanded an immediate halt to the maneuver.... The United States is describing the projected maneuver as an annual event in a bid to water down the offensive nature of the maneuver. But the realities prove that 'detente' and 'improved relations' on the lips of the United States are nothing but hypocrisy to cover up the true colors as a war-thirsty country and aggressor and [to] mislead public opinion."

"North-South Agreement"

Official KCNA had this on its Internet site (4/10): "The North and South of Korea, reaffirming the three principles of national reunification clarified in the historic July 4 North-South Joint Statement, reached an agreement aimed at accelerating national reconciliation and unity, exchange and cooperation, peace and reunification. The agreement says: 'At the request of President Kim Dae-jung, he will visit Pyongyang from June 12 to 14, 2000. In Pyongyang, a historic meeting between Kim Jong-il, general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea and chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission, and President Kim Dae-jung will take place and inter-Korean summit talks will be held. Both sides decided to have a preliminary contact to discuss procedural matters in the near day [sic] of April. The agreement was signed by Song Ho Gyong, vice-chairman of the Korean Asian and Pacific Peace Committee of the North side on behalf of the will of the highest authority and Pak Ji Won, minister of culture and tourism of the South side on behalf of the will of the highest authority.'"

SOUTH KOREA: "The Motives That Move North Korea"

Former Foreign Minister Han Seung-joo observed in independent Dong-A Ilbo (5/3): "It was out of heroism, more than anything else, on the part of the late North Korean President Kim Il-sung that he agreed to a North-South Korea summit in 1994. Pyongyang now has different reasons for coming to the summit, economic and diplomatic reasons, implying that the North is taking more risks....

"Clearly, the new leader Kim Jong-il is politically confident as a leader and in his regime, and this shows in the fact that he has taken a risky course of diplomacy. Six years after his father's death, he must believe his political standing is fully solidified, solid enough to bear the dangers from starting to open his country up to a more affluent South Korea. The summit, in his eyes, is a gamble worth the risk.... Having gone through these calculations, the North, it seems, is unlikely to abruptly cancel the summit at the last minute."

"A Strategy Beyond Economic Aid"

Kim Kyung-won, Director of the Institute of Social Sciences, observed in independent Dong-A Ilbo (5/2): "For now, it is reasonable to conclude that North Korea appears to be serious about a summit this time. The question is no longer whether the summit will actually take place; it is why the North wants it.... Emerging from its Cold War-era isolation, of course, is Pyongyang's main motive, in addition to the obvious desire for economic assistance.... Without better ties with Seoul, the North realized it would continue to be seriously limited in its ability to improve ties with the outside world.... All the circumstances, particularly the North's dire economy, indicate that the summit this time stands a chance of truly easing tensions and opening up the long-isolated regime to the outside world.... Sentimental rhetoric, therefore, will not serve our purpose. We need strategic thinking. When we have that, the June summit would have a chance to provide the historic turning point we have long sought."

"A Spring Of Hope On Korean Peninsula?"

Senior columnist Kim Young-hee opined in moderate Joong-Ang Ilbo (4/12): "President Kim Dae-jung's Pyongyang visit in June will certainly carry...[great] significance.... While expectations are running high, this Korean summit...should be an occasion to dismantle the 50 years of hostility and mistrust between Seoul and Pyongyang, and--more importantly--to infuse a real sense of a breakthrough into our relationship.... Once the air of a new sense of trust sets through the summit, the rest can somehow find its way toward resolution.... The format for us is peace through economic ties."

"Warm Wind On Korean Peninsula"

Senior editorialist Lee Won-sub observed in independent Hankyoreh Shinmun (4/12): "This time, the agreement to hold the summit came voluntarily between Seoul and Pyongyang's governments, unlike the last time when Jimmy Carter had to intervene.. The world is hailing the news of the summit and we, too, can hardly contain our excitement. What is happening between the two Koreas should be more than a one-time episode, and we have more reason than ever before to believe that will be the case."

"North-South Korea Summit: Still A Long Way To Go"

Conservative Chosun Ilbo featured this editorial (4/11): "Allies, including the United States, Japan and China, have helped by encouraging the North to agree to the summit.... We also notice that the summit's agenda, which is the most important part, is not clarified yet, and determining the agenda could well prove to be a strenuous job, given the fact that the North has the propensity to withdraw from a dialogue whenever it finds the situation unsuitable.... As summit preparations take shape, a thorough fine-tuning of positions with the United States and other allies will be critical."

"Expectations For The Summit"

According to independent Dong-A Ilbo (4/11): "If the summit takes place, it will certainly mark a dramatic turning point in Korea's 55-year history of division.... Despite the prospects, we, nevertheless, find ourselves facing a long road ahead. Although the summit announcement has been made, there has not yet been any mention of exactly what agenda the summit will discuss. The lack of clear agenda is of particular significance, because deciding the agenda has always been the main problem in a dialogue with the North."

JAPAN: "Planned South-North Korean Summit Welcomed"

Top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri's editorial stated (4/11): "The ROK-DPRK summit, if realized, will take place for the first time since the two Koreas were established in 1948.... President Kim's approach represents a great leap forward in the South's diplomacy toward the North. It is imperative--first and foremost--that the two Koreas hold direct talks to ease tensions and build a framework for peace on the Korean Peninsula. The accord on the summit talks has also been brought about by the efforts made by Japan, the United States and South Korea.... It will be a blessing if the summit helps accelerate the pace of Japan-DPRK and U.S.-DPRK talks."

"High Expectations Placed On Historic Summit"

An editorial in liberal Asahi observed (4/11): "We welcome the ROK-DPRK summit, planned for June, as a sign of easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.... The North Korean TV broadcast of flash news on the planned South-North Korean summit also gave us the impression that Pyongyang's acceptance of the summit is genuine. With two months remaining before the planned summit, excessive optimism cannot be warranted, given many twists and turns, which occurred between the two Koreas in the past. Countries concerned, including the United States, Japan, China and Russia, should give as much support as possible to help South and North Korea hold a historic summit."

"Summit Expected To Open Way To Lasting Peace"

Business-oriented Nihon Keizai's editorial pointed out (4/11): "The agreement [to hold a summit] is the fruit of South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's strenuous efforts to engage the North in line with his 'sunshine policy.' Credit should also be given to the United States, which has urged the two Koreas to sit at the table, in the firm belief that the Kim Jong-il regime will not collapse easily."

AUSTRALIA: "Tweaking The 38th Parallel"

The business-oriented national Australian Financial Review concluded (4/11): "The June summit between the leaders of North and South Korea offers the prospect of a major reduction in tensions in one of the world's most intractable security hotspots. And, coming almost exactly 50 years after the beginning of the Korean War, it will present a powerfully symbolic way of finally closing the door on Cold War tensions between communism and the West."

INDONESIA: "North Korea Pursues Reconciliation"

Golkar Party's Suara Karya maintained (4/28): "The North Korean government is making a strong effort to demonstrate that it truly wants to reconcile with South Korea. According to Yonhap news agency, a senior South Korean official noted that North Korea is seeking to ease military tensions with South Korea....

"This can be taken as a sign that the North Korean military supports the upcoming summit.... Kim Jong-il apparently realizes that [North Korean] military actions against South Korea would be subject to international condemnation--including from its Korean War allies, China and Russia.... North Korea suffers from a poor economy in which more than half the population suffers from famine and badly needs South Korean assistance. Kim Jong-il has begun to see reality. Given North Korea's openness to peace, the Pyongyang summit has bright prospects."

"Koreas' Agreement To Hold Peace Summit A Relief"

According to leading, independent Kompas (4/12): "The United States and Japan have repeatedly urged North Korea to improve its relations with South Korea if Pyongyang wants good relations with the rest of the world. Signs of improving relations have already begun. Various groups impatiently await the reunification of the Korean Peninsula, one of the most important events at the start of the third millennium."

PHILIPPINES: "Talks Would Be Good For Peace"

Julius Fortuna opined in the independent Philippine Post (4/13): "There are still no details of the talks, but we know that any kind of contacts or talks between the two countries must be good for peace.... Our prediction is that both countries will sign a permanent peace treaty that will lead to substantial demilitarization. Peace and unity are harder goals to achieve in the Korean peninsula than in, say, the previously divided Germany. In Germany, World War II caused the division of the country without Germans fighting Germans. In the case of Korea, there was an actual war, with millions of casualties and permanent damage to each side.... Peace in Korea would be good for our country. We can proceed with our longstanding plan to normalize ties with Pyongyang, a country that became our enemy because of our alliance with the United States and Seoul."

SINGAPORE: "Can Koreas Reconcile?"

In the view of the pro-government Straits Times (4/11): "North Korea has been a slippery customer even as its circumstances have worsened steadily through starvation and lack of spares and fuel. It takes but gives little, its words are cheap. South Korean negotiators know that better than anyone. Yet in spite of this, it is hard to contain one's excitement over yesterday's announcement that the two adversaries stand ready--at least in intent--to dismantle the Cold War structure, in their first summit meeting since the end of the Korean War in 1953.... If the summit trail leads eventually to a non-aggression pact or--dare one breathe the word--reunification, (President Kim Dae-jung) will be honored as one of the great peacemakers of his age. There is many a slip between cup and lip, however. So, the world should not be surprised if the North, just as suddenly, calls off the talks for no good reason. Or the meeting takes place, but turns out to be nothing more than a theatrical gesture. But one needs only to acknowledge that the Korean Peninsula ranks alongside Kashmir and the Arab-Israeli conflict, as triggers for an accidental nuclear war, to realize that something momentous can happen in Pyongyang. The opportunity should not be let go of."

THAILAND: "East Asia Breathes Easy Over Summit"

The lead editorial of the independent, English-language Nation judged (4/12): "As far as the region is concerned, better relations between the two Koreas can only mean better stability. For the past five decades, the fear of a North Korean attack has hung worryingly over our heads, especially as Pyongyang continued to fuel its military machine and develop a nuclear arsenal.... Now, with this breakthrough in inter-Korean talks, there is a possibility that Pyongyang will change its hard-line attitude."

EUROPE

BRITAIN: "Korean Sunshine--Kim Dae-jung's Wooing Gets Dramatic Response"

The conservative Times' lead editorial opined (4/11): "The thaw has been as dramatic as it is unexpected. If South Korea's President Kim Dae-jung does actually meet Kim Jong Il, the 'dear leader' of North Korea, in Pyongyang this June, the mere fact that the leaders of two nations technically still at war have talked will be an extraordinary breakthrough, no matter what is said. It is almost impossible to overstate its symbolic and, just possibly, strategic importance.... [But] South Koreans remember that a summit was promised once before, by Kim Il Sung in 1994, at Jimmy Carter's instigation. The Grim Reaper got to the 'great leader' first. They will take nothing on trust, and nor should the West."

"Uncertain Korean Path--But Summit A Step In The Right Direction"

A commentary in the liberal Guardian held (4/11): "The summit, if it goes ahead, could indeed prove to be the long-sought watershed in what has become a protracted, destructive and largely pointless dispute between kith and kin.... Much as we may wish it, predictions of a 'historic' dawn of a new era of peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula must be treated with caution. North Korea has repeatedly traded agreements on nuclear and missile curbs for economic assistance in recent years. With a South Korean general election due on Thursday, it may be that the summit--is offered on condition of large-scale infusion of South Korean aid. Not so much a deliberate, seismic geopolitical shift, perhaps; more a matter of hungry tummies and political timing."

FRANCE: "Promises In Korea"

Left-of-center Le Monde's editorial judged (4/13): "After half a century of armed immobility, the Korean peninsula is giving signs of movement. The meeting in June of the two rival heads of state is the most promising signal that the North Korean communist regime has understood it cannot continue to act outside the international community. It would have been better for its population if the gesture had come sooner.... A ray of sunshine is emerging over one of the most dangerous places on this planet. Nevertheless, we must not too easily reach the conclusion that all is settled. Kim Jong-il is not the most trustworthy of interlocutors.... It would be criminal to be too naive about him and his opaque regime.... All the nations which sent soldiers to fight in South Korea against communism have a heavy responsibility in avoiding a new tragedy. Now that neither China nor Russia has any interest in North Korea as a former client, it is time to convince them they must share the burden of finding a definitive solution."

"Consequences Of The Cold War"

Jacques Amalric observed in left-of-center Liberation (4/11): "A hasty reunification of the two Koreas could be a major destabilizing element. This is not yet the case, but the precedent of the German reunification proves that history could once again catch us off guard. No one can say what type of new nation would emerge. It would certainly include strong anti-Japanese feelings, a highly developed nationalistm, and in the South, a strong anti-Americanism."

GERMANY: "A New Melody"

Right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine emphasized in an editorial (4/28): "If the climate during the preparations for the intra-Korean summit can be taken as an indication of the current status of relations between North and South, then something like spring indeed seems to have arrived on the Korean peninsula.

"It is true that the difficult content questions have not yet been tackled; most of the focus has been on matters of protocol and organization. But after this promising beginning, one is allowed to think that North Korea's 'great leader,' Kim Jong-il, has some expectations for the summit and has instructed his negotiators accordingly. However, unpleasant surprises are always a possibility when dealing with Pyongyang."

"Sunshine And Missiles"

Karl Grobe noted in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (4/12): "A lessening of tensions between North and South Korea, which could develop into good neighborly relations...is of interest not only to Seoul and Pyongyang. It would also mean that the distrust expressed in public papers by U.S. secret services against the 'rogue nation' North Korea would lose part of its justification. It might become necessary to rethink the presence of 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea and another 60,000 in the wider region. Efforts by U.S. conservatives to revise the 1972 ABM Treaty and the plans for regional, space-based [theater] missile defense systems (TMDs) would become less plausible, especially since the Russian Duma is likely to link its expected and long-delayed START II ratification to the ABM-TMD situation."

"A Difficult Summit Foreseen"

Right-of-center Die Tagespost of Wuerzburg indicated (4/12): "The joy over the agreed-upon meeting between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Il-sung triggers mixed emotions: It will be a difficult summit. Like the GDR in 1989, North Korea may be bankrupt, but the blockheads around Kim Jong-il are likely to let the population starve to death before considering resignation or agreeing to reforms. On the other hand, of all the nations in the region, only South Korea shows an interest in North Korea.... If North Korea wants to recover economically, it will depend on help from the South. South Korea will have to make good use of this diplomatic opportunity. After all, this much seems clear in light of past developments: If given the choice between power and a liberal economy, people like Kim Jong Il always choose the violence of bayonets."

"A Breakthrough"

Right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine stressed (4/11): "It will not be easy [for North and South Korea] to find a common language and agenda. That is why one should not have exaggerated expectations for this first summit. Experience shows that negotiations with North Korea are difficult and that the country, stuck in a permanent economic crisis, will want to be paid for any concessions it makes. But if the mysterious leader Kim Jong-il now joins the dialogue, there is hope that North Korea might open up and become more predictable."

"Kim Dae-jung's Castles In The Air"

Sophie Muehlmann maintained in right-of-center Die Welt of Hamburg (4/11): "The first step has been taken; the historical reconciliation of the last Cold War opponents is becoming a possibility. But it remains doubtful whether the new era of reconciliation will dawn as quickly as Kim Dae-jung made it sound.... As it has demonstrated again and again, North Korea is not afraid of the South. Pyongyang will not hesitate to use Kim Dae-jung's 'sunshine policy' for its own purposes."

"Korean Coup"

Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau averred (4/11): "If the meeting does take place and ends in a halfway decent manner, tensions on the peninsula will subside dramatically.... Despite the likely desire for peace, distrust...still governs the situation.

"The success of the cease-fire still depends strongly on the presence of U.S. troops in the South.... China and the United States, the guarantors of the cease-fire, will remain the referees for the foreseeable future."

"Spring In Korea"

Business Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg's editorial emphasized (4/11): "It is a welcome change that the communist regime in Pyongyang now seems to react to pressure. Sometimes those who have been cornered begin to lash out--it is better not to imagine what this could mean in the case of North Korea."

"Seoul's 'Sunshine Policy' Melts Cold War Ice"

Under the above headline, Katrin Terpitz stressed in business Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (4/11): "By now, it seems clear that the forces interested in a gradual opening have come out on top in North Korea.... Nevertheless, Pyongyang remains unpredictable. The country has a lot of experience when it comes to playing cat-and-mouse games with the West. After all, the North has not yet given up on its potential nuclear armament as a tool for exerting political pressure. The ice on the Korean peninsula has not cracked, but it is beginning to melt."

ITALY: "Korean Peace Process Passes Through Rome"

Maurizio Molinari noted in centrist, influential La Stampa (5/3): "The peace process in Korea is passing through Rome. On May 24, Italy will host a meeting between the United States and North Korea.... Italian Foreign Ministry's representatives express their satisfaction for the selection of the place.... At the Rome table, the Clinton administration will be represented by the special envoy Charles Kartman, who will meet with Pyongyang's deputy foreign minister.... The U.S.-North Korea summit in Rome is part of the diplomatic effort underway in the West. Belgium and the UK also announced that their official delegations will go to Pyongyang 'soon.' Moreover, according to South Korean sources, North Korea is planning to normalize relations with Australia and the Philippines in June. The Western countries' intent is to create an international climate that would favor the success of the historical summit planned for mid-June between the South Korean president and North Korea's 'dear leader.'"

"That 'Last' Wall"

Franco Venturini concluded on the front page of centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (4/12): "It is very good to rejoice at the announced meeting between the two Koreas...but when we say that...the 'Last Wall' is falling...the risk of a dialectical illusion is stronger than any renewed optimism.... For sure, the main Wall, in Berlin, fell.... But the end of the Cold War and the overcoming of blocs did not inaugurate a new international order. Rather, it gave birth to a new disorder, scattered with nationalisms which are difficult to govern. Bill Clinton did not take any bricks away from the atomic wall built by India and Pakistan. The 'lonely superpower' has so far not even succeeded in offering some real solution in the Middle East. Putin's Russia is a question mark.... They try to break the isolation of Iran, but immediately the problem between Islam and democracy is posed. After the elections, Taiwan fears China.... Shall we also talk about the walls in the Balkans?.... Indeed, from a new world, that we would like to be without walls, we expect a more balanced and ambitious globalization, which is able to reconcile geopolitical challenges and economic interdependence.... For sure we wish all our best for a rapid self-destruction of the Korean 'Last Wall'. But if there is a party, the Big Powers should remember that there are too many walls outside the door to celebrate a victory."

"Asian Dialogues Favored By The Recovery"

An editorial in provocative, classical liberal Il Foglio noted (4/12): "Indeed, economic forces in Asia are pushing for the thaw underway between North Korea and South Korea, not the good offices of the rather flat diplomacy of Bill Clinton or the European one, which is increasingly connected with Japan."

RUSSIA: "Historic Summit"

Yuri Savenkov had this to say in reformist Izvestiya (4/11): "This is a world sensation--the leaders of the two Korean states are going to meet. The world's last divided nation, a product of the Cold War, was bound to come to that. It will be a truly historic summit.... The discussion will hardly be on reunification. It is more practicable to talk about coexistence, with lots of difficulties--emotional, psychological and legal--lying ahead.... A long journey begins with but the first step."

"Koreans Hold Their Breath"

Yuri Alekseyev argued on page one of reformist Vremya MN (4/11): "Suddenly, there is hope for a peaceful dialogue. The Korean peninsula may at last be free of tension. We are about to witness a historic event comparable to German reunification. The dialogue itself can become a very serious factor of stability. It can also prompt the Americans to rethink their policy as they keep a 37,000-strong military force in South Korea and plan to deploy an NMD system to stave off North Korea's nuclear threat."

"Breakthrough"

Reformist Noviye Izvestiya (4/11) pointed out in a page-one report by Vladimir Kutakhov of ITAR-TASS: "This is a real breakthrough and can finally bring about a reconciliation between the two countries."

CZECH REPUBLIC: "Encouraging Signs"

As Jaroslav Höfer commented in economic Hospodarske noviny (4/11): "In spite of all question marks, the mere fact that Pyongyang is willing to negotiate with Seoul is encouraging. In particular for Korean citizens on both sides of the border who have been deprived for almost 50 years of a possibility of meeting their relatives behind the demarcation line. For the Koreans in the North, it also means hope that the South's assistance could ease their desperate life in a country shaken by famine."

THE NETHERLANDS: "Korean Peace"

Centrist Algemeen Dagblad's editorial stated (4/12): "Everyone hopes that the meeting will be the beginning of the end the Cold War on the South Asian peninsula.... It is important that the West not spoil things. South Korea's major supporter, the United States, (and this is also true for the EU and Japan) should be careful that its crisis controls should not lead to total escalation.... The North-South Korean summit, made possible because of Western pressure, can only be successful if the Western powers do not stick blindly to their own views and not set their demands too high, particularly in the field of disarmament. With approximately 37,000 American soldiers on the Korean demarcation line, it would be an illusion to think that peace is only a matter for the two Kims to deal with."

"Too Early To Cheer"

J.W. van der Meulen judged in financial Het Financieele Dagblad (4/12): "It is too early to cheer. Kim Jong Il has made small concessions before, only to then launch new provocation and threats immediately."

"An Explosive Peninsula"

Left-of-center Trouw's editorial stressed (4/12): "One should hope that the unstable North Korean regime will not cancel the meeting at the last minute.... It would not be the first time for the North Korean regime to make promises, followed by tough political and financial demands.... North Korea is economically bankrupt, famine has taken hundreds of thousands of victims, and without foreign assistance and foreign investments, this disaster cannot be ended. If Pyongyang realizes this, that alone would already be a major achievement. It could result in détente in the region and this could open up the doors to further cooperation with South Korea. Whether this would be the beginning of a more flexible North Korean regime is still a question. Therefore, reunification of the two Koreas will not be an issue for now."

POLAND: "Victory Of Reason"

Zygmunt Slomkowski judged in leftist Trybuna (4/12): "The announced meeting of the leaders of South and North Korea is not marginal news. It is the first signal that a process can be set in motion to finally liquidate the last relic of the Cold War.... A victory of reason is possible.... Given North-South Korea realities, though, a dialogue and the establishment of a series of contacts alone is a crucial breakthrough."

SPAIN: "Closing The Gap In Korea"

Center-left El Pais opined (4/11): "North Korea's emergence from its shell of isolation has been carefully prepared by Washington, Tokyo and Seoul. These three have been coordinating their policies with the common view that dialogue with one of the world's most ruthless regimes is preferable to nurturing its warlike tendencies, even though Pyongyang uses the hunger of its populace and threats of a nuclear war as pressure tactics.... Hopefully, the meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea announced for June will impart a measure of common sense to Kim Jong-il and his generals."

SWITZERLAND: "Signs Of Ambiguity"

Sergio Roman, foreign editor of largest-circulation, Italian-language Corriere del Ticino, judged (4/11): "Like other diplomatic summits, the one to take place in Pyongyang in June will be held under signs of ambiguity. While the South Korean president wants it to be the first step towards reunification of the peninsula, the North Korean leader simply wants to step out from the dangerous isolation he is in. He will make some concessions as long as he gets some advantages to consolidate his own power.... What is certain is that it will not be easy to write the joint communiqué at the end of the Pyongyang summit."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

MEXICO: "Great Expectations"

Gabriel Moyssen mused in business-oriented El Financero (4/11): "The announcement of the coming summit between South and North Korean leaders opens with great expectations.

"Even though it is still too premature to speak abut reunification, the meeting will confirm the end of the Cold War in that region, as well as the end of the isolation of Pyongyang's regime.... The South Korean government has extended an open hand to the hostile North Korean government since 1998. This strategy has worked so far in the economic field, with $3 billion in bilateral trade.... However, the North Korean government still has to improve relations with Japan, and also with the United States--which wants to bury once and for all North Korea's nuclear missile program."

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