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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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