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SLUG: 5-47338 Clinton / North Korea DATE: NOTE NUMBER:










INTRO: Asia analysts say President Clinton made a wise decision not to include a stop in North Korea when he travels to East Asia later this month. Correspondent Stephanie Mann reports the analysts say the United States needs further concessions from Pyongyang before a trip there would be warranted.

TEXT: Next week, President Clinton is going to a summit of Asian leaders in the Southeast Asian country of Brunei and then making a historic visit to Vietnam, as the first U-S president to travel to that former wartime enemy.

The administration was considering adding a stop in North Korea - another former adversary. The United States and North Korea fought on opposing sides during the Korean War in the 1950s. The war ended without a formal truce, and the United States has kept a strong military presence in South Korea to defend it against a possible attack by the communist North.

Recently, Pyongyang has sought to improve its relations with Washington, but the United States is concerned about North Korea's nuclear program, its development of chemical and biological weapons, and its past involvement in terrorist acts. In addition, the United States wants to be sure any interaction it has with Pyongyang does not undermine the dialogue between the two Koreas.

Mr. Clinton was invited to visit Pyongyang when he hosted Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok at the White House last month, and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussed the idea further when she met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang.

A final decision on a possible presidential trip was put off until after last week's working level talks between U-S and North Korean officials in Kuala Lumpur. A presidential spokesman announced Saturday (11/4) that Mr. Clinton will not be going to North Korea at this time. But he said the president has not decided whether to visit Pyongyang before his term in office ends in January.

Larry Wortzel is the director of the Asian Studies program at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.


I think the president made a wise decision not to go to Pyongyang. Given the lack of response by the North Korean government to providing any transparency into the nuclear, missile, chemical and biological warfare programs, given the lack of movement in reducing the number of forces on the border with South Korea, the president, in my view, has no reason to be there.

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Douglas Paal, the president of the Asia Pacific Policy Center, a Washington research and consulting firm, says it was inadvisable for President Clinton to consider going to North Korea in the first place. He says South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung is anxious for the United States and Japan to improve their relations with the North, in hopes that will sustain a momentum of opening to the outside. But Mr. Paal says that is not enough to justify a U-S presidential trip.

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An American president has to be cautious about the use of this symbolic presence. And there has to be some balance to these visits, not just a high expense of symbolism with very little return. And I think that is something the administration sought in the last week and found, that the North Koreans wanted a much more unbalanced trip, one that was much more of a concession to the North than a consensus in Washington could sustain.

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Mr. Paal says North Korea could make some concessions in the coming weeks that would make a trip by President Clinton possible before he leaves office. In addition to wanting more transparency on North Korea's nuclear program and weapons of mass destruction - including inspection of North Korean facilities - he says the United States is seeking the expulsion of Japanese Red Army terrorists harbored by the North, some kind of formula that would allow U-S troops to stay in South Korea, and a U-S diplomatic liaison office in Pyongyang.

Larry Wortzel says it would be wrong for President Clinton to make a trip to Pyongyang before his term expires. Mr. Wortzel says such a trip would not give the next U-S president the kind of leverage he needs to make progress in the dialogue with Pyongyang.


If the President does go, I think it would be a huge mistake to hand the new administration a fait accompli. I would not object to the establishment of liaison offices, if things come to that. But those liaison offices have to be focused on addressing the real issues. The United States should not be providing, in my view, the economic support for a North Korea that apparently continues to divert food and fuel aid into its army.

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State Department officials have said a Clinton trip to North Korea would be made only if significant progress were expected. They say the United States is committed to a step-by-step process of easing tensions with North Korea. (Signed)


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