August 13, 1997
KOREAN FOUR-PARTY TALKS: 'NOT ALL BAD'
In their comments on three days of peace talks among the U.S., China and South and North Korea that broke off late last week in New York City, analysts did not discern any major breakthroughs but neither did they jump to dismiss the effort as futile. Conceding that the talks ended without a final agreement, Seoul's independent Dong-A Ilbo pointed out: "The general mood is not all bad.... The session was more successful than expected." Seoul's conservative Chosun Ilbo noted, "As a major change, the North indicated that cooperation with the ROK is important on the issues of the food crisis and economic aid.... Its statement that it will abide by the current cease-fire agreement is another major change." South Korea's Joong-Ang Ilbo warned, however, that "the four-party talks may well end up only heightening our illusion about peace." A skeptical Straits Times of Singapore editorialized, "Considering that it took the U.S. and South Korea 17 months to persuade...Pyongyang to agree to four-party talks, the outcome can hardly be hailed as spectacular." Noting North Korea's demand for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea, Seoul's moderate Hankook Ilbo commented before the talks ended, "The general view holds that North Korea is trying, once again, to maximize the price of its negotiation chips, by thrusting forward these difficult issues at the beginning of the talks."
Notable in commentary before and after the talks was speculation about Chinese goals and U.S.-Chinese relations. Tokyo's liberal Mainichi judged, "The U.S. views the talks as a test case for incorporating China into a 21st century security system for the Asia-Pacific region. China hopes to secure its influence in the Far East by applying the brakes to a rapprochement between the U.S. and North Korea.... The U.S. hopes China's involvement...would help level the ground for future Sino-U.S. cooperation for security in the Asia-Pacific region. For Beijing, North Korea's excessive dependence on the U.S. for food and energy supplies would help Washington effectively control the Korean peninsula." Munich's centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung observed, "China's participation could also have an affect on the tense Sino-American relations.... It is thinkable that the Americans and Chinese will narrow their views not only in New York but also during other peace talks relating to other subjects.... It would be reasonable, because the United States and Japan are currently redefining their military cooperation in case of a crisis in Eastern Asia. They mainly think of a crisis in Korea, but secretly also of possible tensions in Taiwan." Tokyo's top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri commented, "Behind China's diplomatic activity lies its Korea strategy: The status quo is best, but unification, if it takes place, should be planned and carried out in a way that maintains Chinese influence on the peninsula." Berlin's centrist Der Tagesspiegel concluded, however, "U.S., South Korean and Chinese interests aim at stability in the region. Nobody wants to risk a sudden collapse of the regime in Pyongyang because of the famine in the North." On the knotty question of additional food aid to the North, the liberal Montreal Gazette pointed out, "The United States and Western nations have been criticized for moving too slowly to help and for linking food aid to political concessions. But the U.S. has, in fact, given $60.4 million worth of food aid to North Korea. At the same time, the U.S. would be right to press North Korea to open up its economy and do more for its suffering people."
This survey is based on 41 reports from 12 countries, August 5-13.
EDITOR: Bill Richey
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
SOUTH KOREA: "Four-Party Talks, A Meaningless Effort"
The conservative Chosun Ilbo (8/13) carried this op-ed article by a national assembly member: "In my view, the prospects for the four-party talks are dim.... North Korea made it clear at the New York meeting that the talks should proceed on its terms and must deal with its own agenda.... The North's foremost goal is unchangeably to sign a new peace mechanism with the United States only while keeping South Korea cut off from the process.... What the North has in mind about the talks is different in nature from what we originally proposed. We proposed real dialogue in which we could discuss peace between the North and the South.... Obviously, we cannot accept the North's 'modified' interpretation of the four-party talks.... China hangs out the flag of support for us, but it won't cross the North's wishes. The United States also has different reasons for joining the talks, that is to maintain the freeze of the North's nuclear program and to implement the Geneva nuclear agreement.... Unless the North's attitude changes, the four-party talks will be just another labor of Sisyphus."
"Four-Party Talks, What Are They For?"
An op-ed article in the pro-business Joong-Ang Ilbo (8/11) commented that "it is important to clarify exactly what we want from the four-party talks.... The South Korea government says it wants to establish a peace mechanism. What changes, then, do we require for that goal?... The four-party talks may well end up only heightening our illusion about peace."
"Four-Party Talks And South Korea Policy On Security"
An op-ed article in the conservative Segye Ilbo (8/12) commented: "One of the reasons we proposed the four-party talks was to show North Korea that an improvement in the relations with both the United States and Korea is possible. Nevertheless, the North still sees it as a conflicting concept.... As it was made clear once again at the New York meeting, North Korea still strives to bypass the South, and that lowers the prospects for the four-party talks. The truth is that we cannot expect progress unless the North gives up the principle that the South be excluded.... Among the things we should prepare ourselves for, is for when a crisis breaks out in the North, we should know how to minimize China's intervention. That will be especially important when a chance to reunite with the North is abruptly thrust upon us. We also should keep in mind that China may want to intervene militarily in order to maintain the status quo. To prevent that, the United States and South Korea should get Chinese 'acknowledgment' first when an emergency breaks out on the Peninsula.... Finally, there is the issue of the U.S. forces. The U.S. wants to play a role of 'balancing' the equilibrium between Japan and China after Korea's reunification, and we need the U.S. to play that role. Korea does not need to leave a wrong impression that a unified Korea would feel closer to China than the United States."
"Four-Party Talks: The First Step Taken"
The pro-business Joong-Ang Ilbo (8/9) editorialized: "Although the preliminary talks produced no final agreement, it is too early yet to be disappointed. North Korea was persistent with the agenda, but that was to be expected. What's important is the fact that we had an opportunity to find out what the North had in mind. Furthermore, the North's posture was not all negative. That was most encouraging."
"The Way To Look At The North Korea Issue"
An op-ed article in the conservative Chosun Ilbo (8/9) commented: "One thing crystal clear about North Korea's South Korea policy is this: it won't start meaningful dialogue nor make any decisions until a new government comes along in the South..... The sole reason the North
came to the New York meeting was because the U.S. asked it to and the North needs food. The North's insistence on the withdrawal of U.S. forces is an indirect, but clear enough, statement that it has no intention to agree to the four-party talks."
The conservative Segye Ilbo (8/9) editorialized: "Although the New York session concluded with no final agreement, it was not all that futile. That the parties were able to sit together was significant. The atmosphere, too, was relatively amiable. Besides, the agreements on the venue for the main talks and other issues brightened the prospects for the talks.... We would like to emphasize once again that the two Koreas should play the central role in the talks, that the North's argument for a peace treaty with the United States makes no sense at this point, and finally that whether U.S. forces should leave is an issue between the U.S. and South Korea. In addition, the withdrawal of the U.S. forces is unthinkable at this point because the two Koreas are not balanced in military strength.... We need patience because time is on our side."
"North Korea Chooses A Practical Approach"
The anti-establishment Hankyoreh Shinmun (8/8) commented that "though the agenda of the main four-party talks is still yet to be decided, all the rest of the issues have now been decided at the New York meeting. That is fortunate. It turned out that the initial strategy--easy issues be settled first--worked just fine. More important, however, it was the North that made the (positive) outcome possible. Some say it cooperated because it is in the North's interest to hold the main talks soon.... It sounds convincing that the North did not mean to frustrate the talks when it raised the issues about the withdrawal of U.S. forces and a peace treaty with the United States. Those issues may just be negotiation chips to use.... Besides, the North kept its promise that it would not raise the food issue at the preliminary talks.... China, too, played a role in moving the talks on to the fast track."
"The Withdrawal Of U.S. Forces Should Not Be On The Agenda"
The moderate Hankook Ilbo (8/8) opined, "We are sorry that the talks balked over the issue of the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The North took up that issue in order to slow down the talks, which is in fact its usual tactic. That issue should not have been raised in the first place.... Any changes to the deployment of the U.S. forces in Korea should be made only when peace is fully guaranteed on the Peninsula. Besides, any discussions about the forces are business between the U.S. and the South Korea...North Korea should stop making unreasonable assertions. Instead it had better come forward to join the South Korea in search of a way for mutual survival. The South Korea does not need to be anxious about holding the main talks early."
"Optimistic About The Next Session"
The independent Dong-A Ilbo (8/8) commented, "Though the preliminary talks are to be adjourned without producing a final agreement, the general mood is not all bad. Song Young-shik, chief South Korea delegate, summarized the New York event as friendly, constructive and sincere.... Another delegate commented that the South Korea team had confidence in the Chinese support throughout the session.... The session was more successful than expected."
"Too Early To Despair"
The conservative Chosun Ilbo (8/7) commented: "North Korea repeated its old demand that the United States and the North have a peace treaty. Then it pointed to the issue of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Korea, saying it should be on the agenda at the four-party talks.... The
North's argument for USFK withdrawal and our main theme of building trust can hardly be seen to have any common ground. While we insist on a working relationship with the North, its sole concern is a peace treaty with the United States. Nevertheless, it is too early to despair that the North is back with the same old arguments and demands. As a major change, the North indicated that cooperation with the South Korea is important on the issues of the food crisis and economic aid.... Its statement that it will abide by the current cease-fire agreement is another major change. In general, participants have concluded that the North is more realistic and substantive than ever."
"North Korea Presses For A Normalization With The U.S."
The anti-establishment Hankyoreh Shinmun (8/7) commented: "In its keynote speech, North Korea repeated its positions about a peace treaty with the United States and the USFK issue. Some expressed concern that the North really means to risk the talks over these issues, while others said that the issues are simply negotiation chips. A great number of people believe that the latter is the case.... Nowhere is there skepticism about the four-party talks, the current debate being dedicated to what is to be on the agenda at the main talks.... The North's statement says that flexibility is possible, as long as there is an indication that the United States will agree to a peace treaty. By the same token, however, the North is saying that there will be nothing it will do if no progress is made on the issue of a peace treaty with the United States.... It seems that pressure is on our side. It looks as if the talks won't make progress unless we concede on the two issues mentioned above."
"South Korea And China Not Relevant Is Unacceptable"
The pro-business Joong-Ang Ilbo (8/7) commented: "North Korea was not exactly saying it, but the message was that the agenda at the main talks should be limited to the issue of a peace treaty between the U.S. and North Korea. That will make South Korea and China irrelevant, which is not acceptable. We may have to interpret the Northern stance as an indication that it has no intention to engage in dialogue."
"A Rugged Road Ahead Toward The Main Talks"
The conservative Segye Ilbo (8/7) commented: "North Korea in the first day of the meeting showed that not much has changed at all, thus dimming the prospects for the four-party talks.... China did not say anything beyond its already declared principle that peace is important. It will continue to stay quiet and observe how the talks develop. In fact, there is no need for China to hurry to say anything at this point. Only at a decisive moment toward the end will it come and call for influence.... While there certainly is a need for concessions on food and economic aid, South Korea should maintain a firm posture on issues like USFK and a peace agreement between the United States and the North Korea.... Some say that the North is playing a game continually insisting on the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Others emphasize that a peace treaty between the United States and North Korea should not be made before the two Koreas recognize each other and agree to weapons reduction and other confidence-building measures.... Positions are widely different, lowering expectations for the four-party talks. Nevertheless, to give in early is not the way, especially at the negotiating table with the North."
"The Direction Of The Four-Party Talks"
An op-ed piece in the pro-business Joong-Ang Ilbo (8/6) commented: "We have three things to keep in mind. First, that the four-party talks are not a bilateral dialogue. If North Korea focuses on nothing else but U.S.-DPRK talks, or if the South Korea drives only at inter-Korean relations, the talks won't work. Secondly, that the South Korea should work closely with the United States, China and North Korea, developing good bilateral relations with each of them. With the United States, the focus should be on a firm solidarity, while with China, it had better be on a
strategic common interests. North Korea's behind-the-scenes diplomacy with the United States is also something the South Korea should always heed. Finally, South Korea security should be in better shape after the talks."
"The Four-Party Talks Should Guarantee Peace In Northeast Asia"
An op-ed piece in the conservative Segye Ilbo (8/6) commented: "The four-party talks should not be made into food talks. That will only diminish what the talks were intended for.... I would like to make suggestions for what should be on the agenda of the talks. First, major issues still hanging between the two Koreas should be put on the table, including the North-South Korea Basic Agreement of 1991. Secondly, a U.S.-North Korea peace treaty should also be part of the agenda, as should the issue of a peace agreement between South Korea and China. Also, it will be as important that the U.S. and China sign their bilateral agreement on agreeing to and guaranteeing peace on the Korean peninsula. Weapons reduction is another issue that should be discussed. Finally, an international monitoring panel should be set up, in order to ensure agreements are carried out.... All four 'peace agreements' among the parties should be put into one final multilateral statement. To make that statement a fully validated peace agreement, the heads of state of the four parties may get together and declare it to the world. For its part, the UN Security Council can support and post it as one complete, international community-guaranteed four-party peace agreement.... For that goal, both South Korea and North Korea should modify their views, and believe in the four-party talks as the only way possible that will guarantee survival for both sides.... China should play an active role, as should the United States especially in improving U.S.-North Korean relations."
JAPAN: "China Seeks To Preserve Influence On The Korean Peninsula"
The top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri's correspondent Akihiro Ito filed a report from New York (8/8), "In the four-party preparatory talks, China's presence is conspicuous. By releasing to the press a paper expressing its determination to establish a peace mechanism on the Korean Peninsula, China has made clear its intention to take an active part in finding solutions to Korea-related problems. By maximizing its influence over both Pyongyang and Seoul, China intends to play a role in stabilizing the situation on the peninsula. China's at-one-time warm relationship with North Korea has cooled since Beijing established diplomatic ties with Seoul in 1992... China's influence over South Korea grew when it played a role in helping arrange North Korean defector Hwang Jang Yop's safe passage to South Korea in February. China's attendance at the four-nation forum is significant for South Korea. Behind China's diplomatic activity lies its Korea strategy: the status quo is best, but unification, if it takes place, should be planned and carried out in a way that maintains Chinese influence on the peninsula."
"Reform Is North Korea's Path Toward Detente"
The liberal Tokyo Shimbun commented (8/7), "North Korea accepted participation in the preparatory talks probably because it wants more food assistance and it wants to break out of its present diplomatic isolation before Kim Jong Il assumes the state and Communist Party presidency. On the other hand, North Korea must walk a cautious line because there are signs that the regime might collapse. It is unlikely that the talks will progress smoothly. The success of the meetings depends on Pyongyang.
"Pyongyang should understand that none of its neighbors wants North Korea to collapse with the resulting flood of refugees. South Korea would have to foot the enormous costs of absorbing a collapsed North Korea. China does not want to see U.S. influence coming so close to its borders. In the process of North Korea's collapse, there would be the increased danger of military conflict. None of these scenarios serves the interests of the United States or North Korea's neighbors. On the contrary, all parties would be hurt.
"Neighboring countries want Pyongyang to adopt reform and open up to the rest of the world.
This is a goal of the four-party talks.... Kim Jong Il is strengthening a military dictatorship to suppress his people's dissatisfactions with economic failure, and as a result regional tensions continue to pile up. Accordingly, reconstruction of North Korea's economy is directly related to establishment of a framework for permanent peace. We urge South Korea, the U.S. and China to persuade North Korea that there is no future other than the promotion of reform and an opening up to the world."
"U.S., China Engage In Tug Of War In Four-Party Preparatory Talks"
The liberal Mainichi's Washington correspondent Yoshiaki Ito wrote from New York (8/6), "With the start of four-party talks, a new framework was established under which two regional powers, the United States and China, cooperate for security on the Korean Peninsula. The United States views the talks as a test case for incorporating China into a 21st century security system for the Asia-Pacific region. China hopes to secure its influence in the Far East by applying the brakes to a rapprochement between the United States and North Korea. Against the background of the improving Sino-U.S. relationship, the four-way talks set the stage for the two nations to engage in a fierce tug of war. In the past, North Korea relied on China for food and energy supplies. But, with a series of food assistance deliveries from Washington to deal with the food crisis...and as the Korean Energy Development Organization (KEDO) operations are set to start...North Korea has begun to depend on the U.S. for food and energy supplies. In spite of these trends, the U.S. wants China to play a role in the establishment of a security arrangement on the Korean Peninsula. The United States hopes China's involvement in the Washington-led initiative (four-party talks) would help level the ground for future Sino-U.S. cooperation for security in the Asia- Pacific region. For Beijing, North Korea's excessive dependence on the U.S. for food and energy supplies would help Washington effectively control the Korean Peninsula. China does not want to see this occur. That is why it actively took part in the four-party talks -- to have a say (in matters) and to maintain its influence on a par with the United States.
AUSTRALIA: "Need Vs. Doctrine In North Korea"
The liberal Canberra Times (8/11): "The country's isolation from the rest of the world has allowed an hysterical and unbalanced leadership to picture foreigners as devils incarnate. It will come as a shock to the common people to find them in the role of donors of lifesaving aid. Indeed, once that artificial bubble of isolation has been punctured it can never be repaired."
PHILIPPINES: "Ending The Korean War"
The editorial in the independent Manila Chronicle (8/8) said: "That the talks will be held at all underscores a softening in North Korea's position.... Getting North Korea to take part in the talks is also the result of confidence-building measures."
"China's Participation Not To Be Underrated"
Columnist Ricardo Malay wrote in the Manila Chronicle (8/8): "China's participation in the talks is not to be underrated. No country is more anxious to defuse the North's instability and if possible, bring it to the orbit of the growth-oriented East Asian community. Sharing a land border with its Korean war ally, China needs a peaceful neighborhood for its economy to continue barreling down the road of prosperity. The North was irritated when Beijing and Seoul exchanged diplomatic recognition which has since given birth to a cozy economic relationship. Influencing its stubborn neighbor to follow its course is a tall order for the Chinese, who are patiently waiting for a Korean breakthrough. That an atmosphere of trust and goodwill pervade the talks is the collective prayer of the world community."
SINGAPORE: "Four In Search Of An Agenda"
The pro-government Straits Times (8/11/) editorialized: "Considering that it took the United States and South Korea 17 months to persuade an isolationist Pyongyang to agree to four-party talks, the outcome can hardly be hailed as spectacular. True, China's participation seems to have had a stabilizing effect on North Korea. In view of the many imponderables of the situation, the world must be grateful, too, that the three days of preliminary negotiations succeeded in hammering out an agreement for representatives of the four countries to meet again in New York around Sept. 15.... Confirmed optimists, and most concerned about the proliferation and humanitarian aspects of the problem, the Americans seem to regard the outlook as moderately promising. They have pinned their hopes on negative features such as the absence of any request by Pyongyang for diplomatic recognition, or the lifting of economic and other sanctions, as a precondition for the next round of talks. It would be the happiest fruition, of course, if the Americans are proved right. But progress will remain elusive unless the North can be pinned down to an agenda before the next round. In this, the United States cannot do better than to rely on Seoul's experience and instinct. South Korea knows the problem as no one else; it has to live with it. It alone can ensure that the talks about talks do not go on forever.
RUSSIA: "North Bound To Compromise"
Nikolai Gulko surmised in reformist, business- oriented Kommersant Daily (8/12): "A struggling economy and famine will finally force North Korea to compromise. That is what Seoul and Washington seem to count on when they speak of a 'good atmosphere' at the New York consultations."
"Russia Can Play Important Role As Mediator"
Leonid Gankin stated in reformist, business-oriented Kommersant Daily (8/7): "The whole world is viewing it as a real breakthrough that representatives of Pyongyang and Seoul, for the first time in many years, have been brought together at the negotiating table.... Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, visiting in Seoul recently, said that Russia will contribute to the negotiation process. Russia, one of the few countries that have normal relations with both Pyongyang and Seoul, can play an important mediatory role. But, as follows from Minister Primakov's statement, Moscow has not completely given up the idea of 'changing the format of the talks' and is ready to join them if they fail to make any progress. Far from all sides are interested in an early success of the negotiations. North Korea, it seems, views them as a way to establish direct relations with the United States, open an American mission in Pyongyang and ease anti-North Korean trade sanctions. Washington's chief objective is to get Pyongyang involved in a civilized system of intercourse and help liberalize the regime itself. China does not appear to be particularly interested in the settlement process, having agreed to take part only for reasons of prestige."
GERMANY: "Beijing's Good Influence On Pyongyang"
Centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (8/8) carried this editorial: "The four-country talks in New York have not failed on the first day.... To put it differently: For the time being, the North Koreans have given up their tactic to block every negotiation with a demand for increased food supplies for their starving population. This more constructive attitude is probably also based on China's participation in the talks. Beijing is not only the last (North Korean) ally, but the Chinese also know North Korea better than the other two participants in the talks.... Beijing's inclusion has already paid off.
"China's participation could also have an effect on the tense Sino-American relations, since
both states are interested in avoiding a war in Korea. In addition, it is thinkable that the Americans and Chinese will narrow their views not only in New York but also during other peace talks relating to other subjects, for instance, by coordinating their broader interests in Eastern Asia. This could result in separate three-country talks between Washington, Beijing, and Tokyo. It would be reasonable, because the United States and Japan are currently redefining their military cooperation in case of a crisis in Eastern Asia. They mainly think of a crisis in Korea, but secretly also of possible tensions in Taiwan, something the Chinese are assuming. It would be good if their distrust could be removed through clarifying talks."
"U.S., South Korean And Chinese Interests Aim At Stability"
Centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (8/8) had this to say: "A narrowing of views and maximum demands regarding the time frame and conference site, the preparatory talks about a peace treaty between the two Korean states, the United States, and China have made good headway..... But with the exception of formal questions, the intransigent North Koreans continue to insist on maximum demands: The withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea and diplomatic relations between North Korea and the United States.
"Both demands are unacceptable for Washington and Seoul as long as the North continues to threaten the South militarily. The acceptance of this wish could at best be the result of a protracted, confidence-building peace process, of which all sides are still far away. The martial threats of the North against the South speak a totally different language. One thing seems to be clear: U.S., South Korean, and Chinese interests aim at stability in the region. Nobody wants to risk a sudden collapse of the regime in Pyongyang because of the famine in the North. But nobody is able to say how weak the North really is."
Right-of-center StraubingerTagblatt/Landshuter Zeitung (8/7) judged: "A few days ago, major food supplies (to North Korea) were raised as a precondition for progress at the negotiations in New York. Yesterday, the next demand was raised: Before (North Korea) could narrow its views with South Korea, the U.S. forces, which are deployed in the South, must be pulled out first. The demands of the North Koreans are simply an expression of megalomania. They should simply be ignored at the four-party talks in New York."
"Assistance For North Korea"
Henrik Bork said in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (8/7): "High expectations are accompanying the four-country talks on North Korea which have now began in New York. The term 'historic' could already be seen in newspaper columns. But first of all, we must take stock, and this is bitter: North Korea has reached a historical record low; the communist government has mismanaged the country to such a degree that its diplomats have come to New York with only one trump card; the greatest strength of the country is its weakness. None of the three negotiating partners wants to see a sudden collapse of the country in the near future....
"But all sides involved are fully aware of the fact that North Korea, because of its situation, was forced to the negotiating table. It remains to be seen whether the country, in the long term, will be willing to replace the cease-fire by a peace treaty. On a short-term basis, however, Pyongyang only hopes for assistance to survive.... Nobody should expect a quick breakthrough for a peace treaty, but North Korea's attitude...offers reason for guarded optimism. With its approval to take part in the talks, the country has given up its previous strategy to insist on bilateral talks with the United States and to avoid direct contact with South Korea....
"However, the most encouraging sign that North Korea could disclose a serious will for
detente and even for a peace treaty could be the country's adherence to the nuclear agreement of 1994.... The simple fact that the formerly so proudly acting North Korea has jettisoned its mad self-supply ideology and accepts food aid even from South Korea, is a good omen. This is why it is time for the international community to offer assistance now. Further food aid is not only dictated by humanity, but it is also politically reasonable. It will at best stabilize the corrupt regime in Pyongyang for a brief period of time, but in the long run, food supplies will gravely damage the political legitimacy of Kim Jong-il and his military dictatorship."
"Talks Among Four"
Wolf Bell editorialized in centrist General-Anzeiger of Bonn (8/6): "We cannot expect quick results or even the chance for reunification from the Korea talks in New York.... All sides involved are striving for a peace agreement which is to stabilize the situation on the peninsula. But big obstacles have to be removed to achieve this aim. We must mainly doubt the honest will of the two Koreas to accomplish this goal. The policy of the South mainly consists of stirring up fears and distrust. The communist North has made its contribution to keep these fears alive.... North Korea's leadership is also trying to establish direct relations with the United States to reduce Seoul's influence. The handing over of four coffins with the remains of U.S. soldiers points to this direction. At least the two major powers seem to agree that, in this situation, confidence-building steps are at best possible. But first of all, all sides must agree on the modalities and the timetable of the talks, which could then begin in the fall of this year."
"For The First Time They Sit Together"
Right-of-center Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten (8/6) said: "Again exploratory talks are taking place since, after the end of the war on the Korean peninsula, North and South Korea are still in the state of a cease-fire. But the four-country meeting in New York will hardly change this fact.... Nevertheless, there is also something new to report from the Far East, since it is the first time that the two Koreas, the United States and China sit together at the negotiating table. In North Korea, hunger is threatening the life of five million people and the economy that is about to collapse is forcing the regime to accept donations from the arch enemy in the South. On the other hand, North Korea could also be pushed to do irrational acts. South Korea, which is afraid of North Korea's nuclear and chemical weapons, will not harbor any illusions. Even food and economic aid will not prompt the communist guard to agree on substantial talks."
BRITAIN: "Dear Leader Keeps N. Korea In Dark Over Peace"
The centrist Independent had this report from correspondent Stephen Vines in Pyongyang (8/11): "On the day after the historic preliminary Korean peace talks broke down in New York last Friday, the North Korean regime chose to inform its people that Kim Jong Il had visited a military circus.... The regime knows it cannot feed its people and needs to open its door to the international community, but in the paranoid, secretive world of Korean politics, it cannot bring itself to swallow the compromises required to stave off the crisis."
"North Korea Joins Talks About Talks"
The independent Financial Times had this report from Seoul (8/6): "North Korea yesterday took another step in its new role as peacemaker by taking part in talks in New York to arrange four-party negotiations for a formal treaty to finally end the Korean War. North Korea has adopted an increasingly conciliatory attitude as its problems, including widespread starvation, grow.... But Pyongyang is expected to be a tough negotiator despite its economic problems. It is likely to seek more food aid before agreeing to join the talks. Other demands could include the lifting of American economic sanctions and setting up of diplomatic ties with Washington."
CANADA: "Hope And Fear In Korea"
The liberal Montreal Gazette (8/7) stated "Against a backdrop of growing famine, North Korea's secretive, Stalinist regime has been making accommodating gestures to the outside world.... But any optimism over this week's four party talks...should be guarded. These aren't really peace talks at all, only preliminary discussions to see if the two bitter enemies can be brought to the same table.... The United States and Western nations have been criticized for moving too slowly to help and for linking food aid to political concessions. But the United States has, in fact, given $60.4 million worth of food to North Korea.... At the same time, the United States would be right to press North Korea to open up its economy and do more for its suffering people. Real peace and security on the peninsular will not come until totalitarian rule in the North is ended."
"Instability In North Korea Is Not In The Global Community's Interest"
Political commentator Harry Sterling observed in the business-oriented Financial Post (8/7): "Instability in North Korea is not in anyone's interest, particularly not South Korea's. If the situation in the North deteriorates, it could lead to totally unpredictable domestic turbulence, including a flood of refugees. It is thus in the international community's long-term interests to put aside ideological considerations--as was done with communist China--and seek to facilitate change and reforms in North Korea to open up that hermetically sealed society. This means serious efforts to alleviate the famine...and to end the North's self-imposed isolation. This will be a sound investment if it lays the groundwork for the eventual reunification of the Korean people and the end to hostilities on that troubled peninsular."
INDIA: "Korean Talks Get Under Way Today"
The analysis in the centrist Hindu (8/5) by Tokyo correspondent F.J. Khergamvala read: "More than 15 months after a joint U.S.-South Korean proposal to bring peace to the Korean peninsula, all four parties involved are to take part in talks that might result in an agenda for detailed and long drawn out negotiations.... At these talks, the United States, South Korea and China are to impress upon Pyongyang that the existing armistice agreement is the only workable truce arrangement until a more reliable arrangement is in place. Reports in the U.S. media say that the U.S. might suggest long-term technical assistance to the North to help it cope with its famine situation now and to restructure its agriculture system. Pyongyang might welcome this as a first step in the loosening of economic sanctions and also as a means of enlarging its bilateral engagement with the United States....
"The Americans have indicated that redeployment of U.S. forces may be a natural consequence once a permanent peace is achieved but it is extremely unlikely this would be allowed inclusion in the agenda, except in language that might please the North Korean military, elements of which are opposed to the talks.... The U.S.-South Korean alliance can hardly be expected to dilute a bargaining position improved by the presence of U.S. troops, especially when North Korea's own negotiating strength lies in the nuisance value of its one million strong (or weak) armed forces and the uncertainty of its nuclear possessions. For Pyongyang, putting across such proposals and some others might be a tactic to prolong the process during which it can demand more food aid remain engaged. Moreover, the North Koran regime is most unlikely to agree to get directly engaged strictly bilaterally with South Korea while Kim Young Sam is in power in Seoul.... The United States and the World Food Program have been appealing to Japan to provide more food aid to North Korea but the Hashimoto government has used certain bilateral Japan-North Korean issues to open out its own independent negotiating track with Pyongyang in order not to be seen as being in tow to a peace process that has excluded Japan."
"Better Late Than Never: Korean Peace Talks Begin Today"
The analysis in the centrist Times Of India by Hong Kong correspondent Harvey Stockwin (8/5) held: "Long overdue talks on the most crucial East Asian security issue begin in New York's Columbia University on Tuesday. But it will be a minor miracle if the four- power discussions quickly lead to a major lessening of tensions in the enduring Cold War on the Korean peninsula.... Strictly speaking, the four-power talks are 44 years late, since they should have started no later than October 1953, according to the terms of the Korean Armistice signed in July that Year.... In theory, decisions should be quickly forthcoming. Now...all parties would stand to benefit from a reduction in the tension which inevitably accompanies the huge armed forces based on either side of the demilitarized zone...which separates the two Koreas....
"The dire straits in which the North Korean people are place has won little sympathy from the outside world mainly as a result of the political intransigence and military assertiveness displayed by the North's hardline regime. The United States and South Korea are perfectly willing to provide increased aid and investment if the Cold War atmosphere is radically reduced. The rest of the world will almost certainly feel greater sympathy for the North Korean plight if some flexibility is quickly displayed at the negotiating table.... In practice it will come as a complete, though welcome, shock if North Korea quickly displays an accommodating approach.... The Americans, as ever, are hopeful that the North Koreans have been forced by circumstances into a change of heart. The South Koreans are much more suspicious that any North Korean negotiating tactics will in fact indicate a more positive peace seeking strategy. Whatever else they do, the North Koreans will probably use any chance they get to try and drive a wedge between the United States and the South Koreans."
NEPAL: "Beg-Food-But-Hide-The-Receiving-Bowl Policy"
Government-owned Gorkhapatra (8/9) commented, "Since North Korea has put forward several arguments and conditions, there is little hope of fruitful results from the peace talks. North Korea has already hinted that the United States and South Korea should be prepared to provide additional foodstuffs to North Korea to further the talks.... Besides, North Korea may present further demands such as lifting the economic sanctions imposed by the United States against it and establishing diplomatic relations between America and North Korea.... In this regard President Clinton has shown a softer attitude and North Korea has also taken some effective measures.... Despite North Korea's commitment, the United States has not been able to bring the two Koreas together for direct talks.... There is no confidence in North Korea's commitment about nuclear reactors.... One of the stumbling blocks to the success of the talks is the North Korean objection to the impending joint U.S.-South Korea military exercise.... It is only because of the presence of American troops in South Korea, that there has been no war between the two Koreas since 1953.... Although North Korea has stated that it is prepared for both war or peace, it has been unable to demonstrate its good faith.... It is hard to expect any improvement in the North Korean 'beg-food-but-hide- the-receiving-bowl' policy."
ARGENTINA: "Peace, At Last"
Pro-government La Prensa editorialized (8/11) "Though Pyongyang's bravado expressions can still be heard quite often, extended malnutrition and isolationism have fractured the government's intransigence. This is the reason, then, for the recent round of dialogue.... All in all, these are conversations between second line officials whose ultimate goal would be to prepare the groundwork for what will then be final negotiations. This is to say, it is 'a dialogue about a future dialogue.' We must not be very hopeful, then, that any specific results will be achieved in a relatively short period. In spite of this, it is a step forward that Korean representatives are, at least, ready to sit at the same table with their opponents in order to create, almost 50 years later, stability in the red-hot peninsula."
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