Two Koreas
sign pact to ease tension

Prepared for internet by Vietnamese Missionaries in Taiwan

Two Koreas sign pact to ease tension.

 Pyongyang , Reuters and AP June 15, 2000 - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung late on Wednesday formally signed a wide-ranging agreement aimed at reducing tensions between two countries and boosting economic ties.

 An official South Korean statement released in Seoul said the two leaders signed the accord at 11:20 p.m. (14:20 GMT) in Pyongyang at the end of the second day of an unprecedented summit.

 South Korean officials said the agreement covered measures to promote reconciliation and the eventual unification of the two estranged neighbours; steps aimed at detente along the last Cold War frontier; the reunion of families divided for half a century; and exchanges in the economic, social and cultural sectors.

 Earlier, declaring their landmark summit a success, South Korean President kim made an impassioned plea to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il to joint him in efforts to reunify the devided peninsula.

 In a banquet speech at the end of his second day in Pyongyang, Kim Dae-Jung said it was time for Korea's 70 million people to heal the wounds they had inflicted on each other and "chase away the fear of war from our land".

 "The Korean people are one; we have a common fate. There is nothing we cannot do if we make steady efforts with good faith and patience. Thus, before long we will be able to reach the goal of unification," said Kim, the first South Korean leader to set foot in the North since the two states were separated in 1948.

 Responding, North Korea's titular president, Kim Yong-nam, said he believed the visit would indeed pave the way for reunification of a country that is the last, heavily militarised flashpoint of Cold War.

 "History gives us opportunities only once. Reunification is not for the future but for the present," Kim Yong-nam, number two in the Pyongyang hierarchy, told the South Korean.

 A former dissident who was targeted by successive military governments in Seoul and has survived four assassination attempts and death row imprisonment, Kim Dae-Jung said he had suffered much persecution during his 40 years of public life.

 "However, none of that was able to frustrate my will to dedicate myself to reconciliation and cooperation between the North and South and to unification," according to the official Englih translation of his remarks.

 The accord was hammered out at an afternoon of talks between the leaders of two countries that have been technically at war for half a century and that have repeatedly fail to dismantle what the South's Kim called a "wall of mutual mistrust".

 The South Korean leader, who had earlier admitted to having been overwhelmed by the summit marked a new beginning.

 "For the first time, the Korean people can see a bright future, as a dawn of hope for reconciliation, cooperation and unification is breaking," Kim said.

 The two Koreas have been on the verge of breakthroughs in the past - agreeing to a Joint Declaration in 1972 and signing non-aggression treaties in 1991 - only to lapse back into sullen confrontation that spilled over into occasional clashes.

 There was no word from the North Korean side about the planned agreement. Kim Dae-Jung's spokesman described the day's talk as frank and said Kim Jong-Il had approached them positively, tackling the problems raised in a rational way.

 Making small talk for the cameras before the meeting got under way, the North Korean leader joked that the summit gave the life to the overseas media's description of him as reclusive.

 "Westerners seem to have been very curious about why I live like a hermit. And now, with your visit, they've got the answer," Kim-Jong-Il, dressed in a grey Mao jacket, laughed. Kim Dae-Jung invited his Northern namesake to make a return visit to Seoul, according to South Korean reporters accompanying the president in Pongyang.

 The dispathches did not say whether Kim Jong-Il, who has recently spearheaded a flurry of diplomatic activity to end his hermit states's isolation, had accepted.

 Kim Dae-Jung is aacompanied by 50 South Korean journalists, as well as 130 businessmen and officials. But foreign reporters, were barred from the three-day summit, which is due to end on Thursday with Kim making the short drive back to Seoul across the most heavily fortified frontier in the world.

 Kim Dae-Jung's immediate priority at the summit was to persuade the North to give some of the seven million South Koreans, many of them elderly, who have relatives or ancestors in the North the chance to visit family members they have not seen for half a century.

 As a token of good faith, the agriculture ministry in Seoul said on Wednesday, it would speed up delivery of 200,000 tons of fertilizer in time for hunger-striken North Korea's rice-planting season.

 Officials said the government would also ask the National Assembly to approve an extra US$450 million in add for the North's battered economy - an issue also expected to come up in the Pyongyang talks.

 Earlier in the day, Kim Dae-Jung discussed with North Korea's titular president, Kim Yong-nam, possible road and rail projects and steps to boost investment in the communist North, where living standards are about a tenth of those in the bustling capitalist South.

 (From the China Post, June 15, 2000)

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