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[Editorial] Real intentions of N.K. General Cho's U.S. visit

[Editorial] Real intentions of N.K. General Cho's U.S. visit

Posted October. 01, 2000 21:40,   


It is, indeed, an epoch-making event in Pyongyang-Washington relations that Vice Marshall Cho Myong-Rok, the No. 2 man in the North Korean military after Kim Jong-il, will visit the United States on Oct. 9. In view of the present North Korea-U.S. relations and the peninsula's stark realities, we are rather curious if there are any hidden motives behind Defense Chairman Kim Jung-Il's decision to dispatch the most powerful military man after him in North Korea to Washington as his special envoy.

First of all, we are hoping that Vice Marshall Cho's U.S. visit will make a breakthrough in the deadlocked North Korea-U.S. relations, which have shown marginal progress compared to the rapid developments in inter-Korean relations.

Cho is known as Defense Chairman Kim's key military man, who can read Kim's mind and thoughts better than any other person. Thus, we expect that his trip to Washington can serve as a watershed in North Korea-U.S. relations by resolving the two countries' pending issues, be they nuclear developments, missile programs or Washington's removal of Pyongyang from its list of terrorist states -- the issues that have been a stumbling block for the normalization of their relations.

Such progress in North Korea-US relations, if made, will turn out to be very conducive to the opening and reforming of the reclusive North Korean society. It will also make positive contributions to inter-Korean relations.

As a remote possibility, however, we would point out here that it will be a grave issue if North Korea has any hidden motive in their diplomatic approach to Washington that would betray our good will and hope for successful progress in North Korea-U.S. relations.

Pyongyang's stand has always been that North Korea-U.S. negotiations are essential for the replacement of the present armistice agreement with a peace treaty. So far, it has shown no change from this stance.

We were rather anxious about the way Pyongyang showed its marginal interest in discussing essential military issues during the first round of inter-Korean defense ministers' talks. For that reason, some critics are raising suspicions about general Cho's U.S. trip, suspecting that Cho may be attempting to realize what was known to be Pyongyang's past strategy, which is to close its doors to the South but open them only to the U.S. Instead, the purpose of his trip should be to help open the North's doors not only to Washington, but more importantly to Seoul.

Pyongyang must abandon its intentions, if any, to discuss such essential issues as the easing of tensions and lasting peace on the peninsula only with Washington, whereas with Seoul, it is only interested in discussing such humanitarian issues as food aid and inter-Korean economic cooperation. This is surely making a mockery of the spirit of the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration. The core principle contained in the Declaration is that the South and the North, and no others, are the `direct' parties to any inter-Korean pending issues.

The reason why North Korea Vice Defense Chairman Cho is making a sudden trip to Washington may be due to the North's judgment that it can negotiate the best terms with the Clinton administration in the wake of the impending U.S. presidential election in November. No matter what motivated the trip, the North must not forget the fact that Cho's U.S. visit should not injure inter-Korean relations. This will, then, ensure real progress in Pyongyang-Washington relations.