Global Policy Forum

North Korea Agrees to Talks with US Aide


By Jane Perlez

New York Times
August 26, 1999

Washington - In a promising sign that a resolution might be closer in the standoff between North Korea and the United States over North Korea's suspected preparations to test a new long-range ballistic missile, the two sides have agreed to meet early next month in Europe, the Clinton administration said Wednesday. The U.S. special envoy, Charles Kartman, will lead a delegation of U.S. diplomats and the North Koreans will send their deputy foreign minister, Kim Gye Gwan, for four days of talks in Berlin starting on Sept. 7, the State Department said. The talks are to be held about the time when the administration expected that the North Koreans might stage the test of the new Taepodong 2 rocket. North Korea will mark the 50th anniversary of Communist rule next month and some analysts have suggested that the test of the missile, which theoretically has the capacity to reach Alaska or Hawaii, would be staged as part of the celebrations.

As the possible test loomed, the United States, South Korea and Japan have shown an unusually high degree of diplomatic coordination in condemning North Korea and pledging to slow down food and oil assistance if the test is carried out. This month, Japan and the United States also agreed to conduct joint research on a missile-defense system that in theory could destroy incoming ballistic missiles from North Korea. Administration officials were cautious Wednesday in forecasting what, if anything, might come out of the talks in Berlin. But they noted recent, relatively conciliatory statements from Pyongyang. "There are signs that North Korea wants to improve relations," a senior official involved in the policy said. The administration was also encouraged that North Korea had invited a correspondent from Cable News Network to report from the country this month, the first such opening to Western television.

There was also some suggestion Wednesday that the North Koreans were showing interest in proposals laid out in June by a U.S. envoy, former Defense Secretary William J. Perry. Perry essentially offered the lifting of some trade sanctions and the beginning of a formal recognition of North Korea in return for a halt to its testing of missiles and an end to its export of missile technology to the Middle East and Pakistan. Some members of Congress have been briefed on Perry's proposals, but they have not been made public. Washington officials have been monitoring the activities at the North Korean launching site by satellite.

More Information on Sanctions in North Korea


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