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Saturday, August 26, 2000
S. Korean leader: Peace treaty
key to better relations with North

By Jim Lea
Osan bureau chief

Replacing the Korean War armistice with a peace treaty is essential to developing better relations on the peninsula, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung told cabinet ministers Thursday.

"Even though (South and North Korea) have entered a new era of relations, we still are in a state of military confrontation," Kim told ministers responsible for security and foreign policy matters.

"We cannot reduce our security awareness and become too optimistic, and we must establish (with the North) balanced development of relations in the military, economic, social and culture fields."

He added that the only way to achieve that is with a peace treaty between Seoul and Pyongyang.

Kim's comments were reported in South Korean TV newscasts Thursday night and confirmed Friday by the presidential spokesman's office.

Kim said he would meet with Presidents Clinton and Jiang Zemin of China early next month during the U.N. Millennium Summit in New York.

He said he will focus on resuming the Four-Party Talks to negotiate a Korean War peace treaty with Pyongyang. The talks involve the United States, China and the two Koreas. Seoul and Pyongyang would negotiate the treaty, with Washington and Beijing acting as mediators.

The talks were proposed by Clinton and former South Korean President Kim Young-sam in April 1996, but it took more than 18 months to get Pyongyang to agree to even discuss holding the talks.

The North insists that it fought the 1950-53 war against the United States and that any peace treaty must be worked out with Washington.

U.S. officials say the treaty must be negotiated between the two Koreas. The United States and North Korea never declared war on each other, although Seoul and Pyongyang did issue official declarations of war on each other.

The first session in the Four-Party Talks was held in December 1997 in Geneva. Six sessions have been held so far, the latest in August 1999.

North Korea has stuck to its demand that the 37,000 American troops stationed in the South must be withdrawn before a peace pact is negotiated. Seoul and Washington have rejected that, saying the issue should be addressed only in treaty negotiations.

Recent developments on the peninsula, including the first-ever summit between leaders of the two Koreas and warming inter-Korean relations, have drawn attention away from the Four-Party Talks.

The South's Kim, however, said that until a peace treaty is in effect, a strong security relationship with the United States is vital.

Bae Gi-chul contributed to this report.

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