Will Mr. Kim Jong Il and Mr. Clinton shake hands?

|Korean Peninsula

On October 12, 2000, the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) declared a joint communique in which both countries pledged to “free themselves from the antagonism” of the past 50 years since the outbreak of Korean War.

The communique was announced at the end of the visit to the US of Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, vice chairman of the DPRK’s National Defense Commission, who was dispatched as a courier of Kim Jong Il, chairman of the commission. His role was to transmit a letter from Kim Jong Il and “the Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il’s will to improve the relationship with the US” (D.P.R.K. Radio and Television Broadcasting) to President Clinton directly. The photo of Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok in the White House in full military regalia, shaking hands pleasantly with President Bill Clinton, was an image of “the end of the war” more remarkable than any eloquent explanation.

The joint communique also disclosed the following decisions; both countries will “improve their bilateral relationship fundamentally”, the DPRK will not launch long-range missiles as long as the two nations continue talks on missile issues and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will visit the DPRK to lay the groundwork for a visit by President Clinton.

On the same day President Clinton and Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok had talks, October 10, a grand military parade was held in Pyongyang, capital of the DPRK, to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Labor Party’s foundation, under Leader Kim Jong Il’s inspection. The announcement of the bilateral communique further aroused the atmosphere of the celebration.

Following the talks, Ms. Albright visited Pyongyang from October 23rd ? 25th. The DPRK greeted her as if she were the chief of the country. She talked with Leader Kim Jong Il for six hours over two days, and he guided her himself at the mass games formed with a hundred thousand people that was performed to welcome her. Six months ago, who could imagine the Secretary of State and Leader Kim Jong Il chatting amiably at a stadium in Pyongyang?

The DPRK has long aspired to improve the relationship with the US. It is obvious that the US troops in the Republic of Korea (ROK) are the biggest threat to the country. At the dinner party in Washington, Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok asked for “the US’s guarantees of its sovereignty and territorial integrity”. It represents that the country is anxious above all to maintain its established social order.

Leader Kim Jong Il published an article when “three years of mourning” for the former leader Kim Il Sung finished in 1997. In the paper, he declared, “The United States is not our old enemy. I hope that we can improve our relationship.”

The DPRK faced the United States holding its trump card, reconciliation with the ROK. The country may wish to improve the relationship far enough that it can’t be retraced during the Clinton Administration. Besides, looking from the economic aspect, it must be difficult for the country to collect funds from international monetary organizations if the U.S. doesn’t remove the name of the DPRK from the list of states that sponsor terrorism. In this situation, the country is unable to introduce high technologies such as computers.

At the same time, the United States corresponds to this movement actively. President Clinton, who had been expected to put off the DPRK issue to the next administration, has expressed that he may be prepared to visit the DPRK. One of the reasons behind the movement is that President Clinton’s mediation in peace talk in the Middle East, which he wanted to be a success to adorn the last days of his administration, seems to have failed. He will visit Vietnam for the first time as the President of the US in the middle of November. If he could stop by in the DPRK, these visits would be his big legacies; putting an end to the period of history of the Vietnam War and the Korean War. Furthermore, if he removes the fear of Tepodon missiles, which directly aims at the mainland of the US, he will significantly contribute to the best interests of his nation.

There are other obstacles between the two countries and the problem about the missiles needs to be dealt with in specific and detailed terms. It is uncertain whether or not President Clinton will visit Pyongyang. Since the DPRK still hasn’t solved its problem of human rights, his visit to the country may raise opposition. However, there is one thing I can say; in order to overcome difficulties that can’t be cleared in practical negotiations and procedures, it is necessary for the chiefs to make a decision. The relationship between the US and the DPRK has entered into such a vital stage.

[Translated by ERINA]