21 October 1998
(U.S. envoy sees "progress" at talks) (530) By Wendy Lubetkin USIA European Correspondent Geneva -- North and South Korea, China and the United States resumed four-way talks aimed at reducing tension and establishing a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. The Third Plenary of the Four-Party Talks opened October 21 following bilateral meetings among the participants in Geneva. "We are still working, and I think we are making progress," said Ambassador Charles Kartman, U.S. Special Envoy for the Korean Peace Talks, at the end of the first day of the four-party discussions. The talks, which are being held in a Geneva office building near the United Nations, have no set duration. At the end of the first day, South Korea, which is chairing the current plenary, announced that the talks would continue for a second day on October 22. The day before the talks commenced, the United States held short bilateral meetings in Geneva with each of the other parties. Following the October 20 bilateral meeting between the United States and North Korea, Kartman said he believed the North Korean delegation had come to Geneva "with a serious purpose." The meeting, which lasted approximately one hour, "went a little longer than I expected because we had a good deal of ground to cover, and we covered some of our expectations for the Four-Party meetings and some of the bilateral issues that are still pending between us," Kartman said. "The atmosphere was quite good and serious," he added. The previous round of Four-Party talks, held in Geneva in March 1998, concluded without agreement after North Korea insisted that negotiations on the withdrawal of U.S. forces and a separate peace treaty be placed on the agenda. At the resumption of the talks October 21, the morning session was devoted to keynote speeches by all four parties, and the afternoon session was dedicated to discussion of those speeches. As chairman, South Korean Ambassador Park Kun-woo was the first to address the meeting. Park said he hoped the South and North would manage to "break free from the old political and military confrontation and conflicts." In a text made available to the press in Geneva, Park said: "I earnestly hope that all the four parties will demonstrate the spirit of cooperation and accommodation in this round, so that we could overcome our differences which surfaced in the first and second plenaries and attain some tangible and substantial progress in the talks." Park proposed that the talks be convened "at regular intervals, for example every three months." "This third round of talks was held no less than seven months after the second plenary," he noted. "Considering that we all wish to establish peace and reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula as soon as possible, we believe that the present state, where we cannot even predict the dates of the next round of the Four-Party plenary meeting, should not go on indefinitely." The texts of speeches by the other delegations were not made available to the press.