Archive for Sunday, September 8, 2002

U.S. signals diplomatic thaw with North Korea

September 8, 2002


— The United States joined Japan and South Korea on Saturday in backing new efforts to improve ties with North Korea, saying the communist regime in Pyongyang was showing signs of change.

The joint overture comes at a critical time for diplomacy on the divided Korean peninsula. North Korea revived stalled moves toward reconciliation with Korea last month, and it agreed to a landmark summit with Japan later in September.

North Korea even says it will accept an envoy from the United States. Washington is contemplating a resumption of dialogue with the county that President Bush said was part of an "axis of evil," along with Iran and Iraq, in January.

The three allies met to coordinate their North Korea policies ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's summit on Sept. 17 with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. It will be the first visit by a Japanese prime minister to the reclusive North.

The three "reconfirmed the importance of the international community's engagement of North Korea," a joint statement said, after two days of consultations in Seoul.

The statement said the three "recognized the more constructive attitude recently shown by North Korea in its talks with the international community."

Recent talks between the two Koreas have produced agreements for reunions for families separated by the Korean War, plans to reconnect a cross-border railway and a proposal for an industrial park in the North for South Korean factories.

The Seoul talks were headed by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, who reaffirmed Washington's "readiness to hold comprehensive and unconditional talks with North Korea."

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