U.S. envoys brief Seoul on N. Korea visit
July 22, 1997
Web posted at: 10:31 a.m. EDT (1431 GMT)
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Two U.S. envoys held talks in
South Korea on Tuesday ahead of next month's four-nation
negotiations in New York. The August 5 talks are aimed at
paving the way for a formal peace accord between North and
South Korea, which are technically still at war.
Retired U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn and James Laney, former ambassador
to South Korea, met South Korean Foreign Minister Yoo
Chong-ha in the South Korean capital Seoul.
U.S. officials said Nunn and Laney briefed Seoul on their
just concluded two-day visit to North Korea, where talks had
been expected to focus on emergency food aid for the North
and the U.S. position for the upcoming negotiations.
"Nunn and Laney's feedback will help us fine-tune our stand
in the four-party talks," a Seoul government official said.
The preparatory peace discussions also will include the
United States and China, and are seen as a crucial step in
trying to ease tension in what is often described as the last
Cold War front left in the world.
Seoul has said it is willing to offer large-scale economic
assistance to the North if Pyongyang agrees to detente.
Tension along the Demilitarized Zone separating the two
Koreas has heightened in past months, with repeated
cross-border incidents and mutual allegations of provocation.
South Korean officials were hoping Nunn and Laney would
provide fresh insights into North Korean leaders' thinking as
Pyongyang prepares for political changes.
On July 8, Pyongyang announced the end of mourning for "Great
Leader" Kim Il Sung, paving the way for his son, Kim Jong Il,
to take over as the state president and general secretary of
the ruling Workers' Party.
Those two posts have been vacant since the senior Kim's death
three years ago.
North Korea's official news agency KCNA reported the visit by
Nunn and Laney on Monday, but did not give any details as to
what precisely was discussed.
"At the talks views were exchanged on the issues of common
concern in further improving the North Korean-U.S. relations
and an agreement was reached on some important points," the
agency said in a report monitored in Tokyo.
Analysts said North Korea's leadership faced the urgent task
of easing hunger in the country before Kim Jong Il formally
assumed the top state and party posts.
"North Korea wants better ties with the United States and
Japan in a bid to rescue its collapsing economy," one Korea
Pyongyang initially responded negatively to the four-party
talks but now appears to be trying to use the negotiations as
a bargaining card, according to some analysts.
The food issue has repeatedly come into play with regard to
the peace talks. At one point, North Korea tried to link
international food aid to its participation in the talks.
On Wednesday, North and South Korean Red Cross
representatives are to meet in Beijing to set the amount and
procedures of more food shipments to the North.
The United States, South Korea, China and other countries
have donated hundreds of thousand of tons of food to North
United Nations agencies say the country needs about 800,000
tons of food aid before its October harvest to avert
widespread famine. The North has suffered severe shortages
due to two years of disastrous flooding.
On Tuesday, North Korea angrily rejected Japanese media
reports that suggested North Korea was selling donated corn.
A North Korean ship unloaded more than 1,000 tons of feed
corn at the Japanese port of Aomori on July 14. That shipment
was reported by Japan's right-wing Sankei Shimbun newspaper,
and later by other Japanese media.
A counselor at the North Korean embassy in Beijing said the
grain was shipped from China by a North Korean trading
company in a commercial transaction.
A North Korean official rejected the media allegations as
"spoiling the atmosphere of international assistance."
South Korea agreed with the North Korean statement, saying
its own investigations had shown that the shipment was indeed
a commercial agreement between a Chinese seller and a
Reuters contributed to this report.
- North, S. Korea exchange heavy fire across border - July 16, 1997
- North Korean defector warns of war preparations - July 10, 1997
- Korean Red Cross officials discuss 'desperate' food shortage - May 3, 1997
- Starving North Koreans take desperate steps for food - May 1, 1997
- North Korea: Hungry and poor, but proud - April 25, 1997
- S. Korea: Defector says N. Korea has nuclear weapons - April 22, 1997
- North Korea hints at accepting Hwang's defection - February 17, 1997
- Defector says he's fed up with North Korean dictatorship - February 12, 1997
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