Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Bid for Korea Talks May Redesign Peace

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Bid for Korea Talks May Redesign Peace

Article excerpt

A DAY after a routine civil-defense drill halted traffic and fighter jets roared over the resulting quiet of South Korea's cities, a new proposal to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula was announced.

Forty-three years after North Korea, South Korea, China, and the US sat down to negotiate and sign a truce ending the 1950-53 Korean War, President Clinton and his South Korean counterpart, Kim Young Sam, proposed that the four parties get together again to discuss a more lasting peace.

In a press conference April 16 following a meeting on the semi-tropical island of Cheju, the two leaders said there would be no preconditions for dialogue, and that it should begin "as soon as possible." Mr. Clinton also reaffirmed the American-South Korean alliance - a show of solidarity designed to make clear to the North that peace talks that did not include the South were out of the question. But he said that the ultimate burden of peacemaking rested on the two Koreas. "North Korea has said it wants peace. This is our proposal to achieve it," Clinton said. "We hope and expect Pyongyang to take it seriously." The idea of four-way talks was first brought up in Seoul two months ago. Taking an optimistic lead from North Korea's overtures for talks in late February, the allies have proposed their version of a framework to accomplish what the North Koreans say they want. But Yang Sung Chul, a member of the biggest opposition party here, says that yesterday's proposal was neither new nor special. "No matter what we say, North Korea won't do anything unless they feel like it." The proposal was relayed to China and North Korea a few days ago, the presidents said, but they didn't expect a response immediately. Beijing is expected to respond favorably, as the peace talks may be a bright spot on the recent rocky road with the US. A spokesman in Beijing said yesterday that China wanted to play a constructive role, but that Beijing was still weighing a decision on whether to back an offer. Many analysts, however, wonder what would happen if China decided to support the proposal and the North didn't, saying the situation would further isolate and alienate a reclusive North. …

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