North Korea agrees to peace talks
Need for food seen as reason for breakthrough
June 25, 1997
Web posted at: 10:34 a.m. EDT (1434 GMT)
In this story:
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea has agreed to sit down with
its old enemies South Korea and the United States next week to prepare
four-party peace talks, South Korea said Wednesday, the 47th anniversary
of the outbreak of the Korean War.
"Pyongyang has accepted a suggestion that senior officials from the
two Koreas, the United States and China meet around early August to set
an agenda and other details for the peace talks," a government official
Lower-level officials are to meet in New York next Monday to prepare
for the August talks.
Last year, President Bill Clinton and South Korean President Kim
Young-sam proposed that the four nations work out a peace settlement to
replace the truce that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. Technically, the
two Koreas are still at war.
Food for talks?
After a year of hesitation, North Korea agreed in April to
participate in the four-way talks on the condition that it be given
large-scale food aid. The North now appears to have dropped that
South Korea and the United States -- which have already given
millions of dollars in free food in response to reports of widespread
starvation -- have said the additional assistance sought by the North
could be discussed during peace talks.
The United States has pledged $25 million and South Korea $16
million in response to the United Nations World Food Program's most
recent appeal for food for North Korea.
"North Korea's acceptance of the peace talks underlines how serious
its food problem is," said Lee Ki-won, vice president at the independent
Institute of North Korea Studies, based in South Korea.
"The North needs to ease its food shortage to allow its leader Kim
Jong Il to formally take over power," he said.
On July 8, North Korea marks the third anniversary of the death of
state founder Kim Il Sung, a milestone that analysts say could clear the
way for his son, Kim Jong Il, to take over as head of the state and
the ruling Workers Party.
The two posts have been left vacant since Kim Il-sung's death.
Officially, North Korea wary
The North's official daily newspaper said Pyongyang would be ready
to discuss peace "as long as the enemies do not provoke a war..."
The Rodong Sinmun said in an editorial: "The Korean People's
Army...is keeping a sharp eye on every move of the warmongers who are
outwardly calling for 'four-way talks' to secure peace and security
while waiting for a chance to trigger a war of aggression against the
Seoul Bureau Chief Sohn Jie-Ae and
Reuters contributed to this report.
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