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SLUG: 5-47226 North Korea Security Triangle DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: U-S Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's historic visit to North Korea is producing mixed feelings among Washington's closest allies in the region. While officials in Seoul and Tokyo say they welcome Washington's effort to quickly engage Pyongyang, VOA's Alisha Ryu reports that privately, there are mounting concerns in South Korea and Japan that a too-rapid thaw between North Korea and the United States could sideline their own efforts to negotiate deals with the communist state.

TEXT: Since June's landmark summit between South Korea President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, North and South Korea have made rapid progress in bridging a half century of hatred and hostility. The meeting led to reunions of families separated since the Korean War, agreements on new road and rail ties, and the first high-level military talks since the war.

Japan, too, has benefited from the June summit. After eight years of silence and distrust, Tokyo has already held two rounds of normalization talks with North Korea. The third is scheduled for next week in Beijing.

But ever since U-S Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced on October 18th that she would go to Pyongyang as the highest level U-S official ever to visit North Korea, many in South Korea and Japan have worried that they may become less of a priority for Pyongyang as it works to improve relations with the United States.

South Koreans point out that inter-Korean economic talks due to take place last week were cancelled without explanation. The North also appears to be stalling on a second round of planned reunions of separated families. Those reunions were scheduled for early November. But the North has yet to respond to counterparts in the South trying to arrange the meetings.

In Japan, there are worries that North Korea will ignore their efforts to resolve the alleged kidnappings of 10 or more Japanese nationals by North Korean agents two decades ago.

Seoul University professor Lho (pronounced no) Kyong-soo believes, what makes the Koreans and the Japanese most nervous, is the lack of a unified plan among the allies about how to deal with North Korea.

/// LHO ACT ///

I talk to academics and analysts and I think the mainstream Japanese view is not dissimilar from mine. The challenge, I think, is to formulate a long-term strategy where we would together propose far-reaching goals for North Korean action that advances American, Japanese and South Korean interests.

/// END ACT ///

Mr. Lho says Seoul and Tokyo should be heartened by Washington's focus on abolishing missile testing and development. Two years ago, North Korea launched a missile that sailed over Japan sparking renewed security concerns throughout the region. In Pyongyang, Ms. Albright's delegation reportedly also brought up Japanese concerns about its missing nationals.

But political analyst Doug Paal at the Asia-Pacific Policy Center in Washington agrees with critics of the rapid U-S rapprochement with North Korea. He says President Clinton's plan to visit Pyongyang before he leaves office in January will achieve little except to rattle U-S allies in the region.

/// PAAL ACT ///

For the President of the United States to consider jetting in on short notice to North Korea creates the kind of ripples that were created when Richard Nixon created when he flew into China in 1972. It certainly unsettled Taiwan and other friends of the United States. This time, though, North Korea is not doing things we need them to do in terms of opening their country. They are not heading down the path that China headed on. It is quite the opposite. They are trying to do the minimum to preserve this reprehensible regime in the north.

/// END ACT ///

For decades, Pyongyang treated South Korean governments as U-S puppets insisting on negotiating a peace agreement only with Washington.

Mr. Paal warns that unless Washington makes a concerted effort to coordinate its North Korean agenda with Seoul and Tokyo, Pyongyang may be the only one in the end who can claim to have achieved its diplomatic goal. (Signed)


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