North Korea to decide soon on peace talks
April 8, 1997
Web posted at: 2:02 p.m. EDT (1802 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Amid a growing sympathetic international
response to its severe food shortages, North Korea has told
the United States it will soon decide whether to enter peace
talks with rival South Korea, U.S. officials said.
Separately, the chairman of the U.S. military Joint Chiefs of
Staff met his South Korean counterpart in Seoul on Tuesday to
discuss security on the Korean peninsula.
The two-day visit by General John Shalikashvili will overlap
with a trip to Seoul by U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen.
The United States maintains 37,000 troops in South Korea to
defend against the communist North.
The Clinton administration believes North Korea has been
positively influenced by the "cumulative effect" of recent
food aid appeals for the country and was optimistic the
Stalinist regime will agree to enter peace talks, one
"The North Koreans indicated that they will soon give the
United States and the Republic of Korea a formal response to
our joint briefing" proposal on peace talks, State Department
spokesman Nicholas Burns told a news briefing on Monday.
Pyongyang communicated this view when U.S., North Korean and
South Korean diplomats met in New York last Friday. "Our
hope, of course, is that the North Koreans will agree (to)
the four-party proposal themselves and that those talks can
be begun," Burns said.
Asked about a statement by a South Korean foreign ministry
spokesman Monday that North Korea had asked for a second
briefing on the proposal, Burns said: "We've had a lot of
briefings. We're willing to have another, I guess, but we'd
really like the North Koreans to accept the proposal."
A year ago, the United States and South Korea launched an
initiative for negotiations on a peace treaty formally ending
the 1950-53 Korean War. China would also participate.
But the initiative lagged as the infiltration of a North
Korean submarine into the south last September and North
Korea's severe food problems worsened the already tense and
complicated situation on the Korean peninsula.
The submarine incident was defused in December when North
Korea apologized and agreed to attend a formal "briefing" on
the peace talks proposal, which U.S. and South Korean
officials provided in New York March 5.
The food problem caused cash-strapped Pyongyang to plead for
international donations and commercial barter deals. There
were indications Pyongyang thought it was promised more food
aid than initially received in return for attending a
Reuters contributed to this report.
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