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N. Korean leader¡¯s visit to U.S. uncertain

Posted October. 13, 2000 12:11,   


Will North Korean Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-Il visit the United States, if President Bill Clinton goes to North Korea? Although the question is not contained in the North Korea-U.S. joint communiqué, it is a practice that if a supreme leader of a nation visits a foreign country for a summit, the leader of the host state makes a return visit to the visitor's state.

At this point, concern is raised as to whether the North Korean leader will make a visit to Washington, D.C., in return of Clinton's projected Pyongyang visit.

As a matter of course, Kim's U.S. visit is the question to be raised following Clinton's North Korean visit.

However, depending on the result of the U.S. presidential election in November, there are a few variables. If Democratic candidate Al Gore is elected president, Kim's Washington visit will be highly probable, as the president-elect is expected to follow the basic line of the Clinton administration's policy on North Korea. On the other hand, in the case that Republican candidate George W. Bush is elected, Kim's U.S. visit will hang in the balance.

There is the possibility that Kim's visit to Seoul scheduled for next Spring could be associated with his American visit. He could visit Seoul first and then Washington, or vice versa. The Seoul government seems to maintain a position that it does not matter whichever is the case, as Seoul and Washington are constantly consulting each other through the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group.

If Kim Jong-Il's visit to Washington is realized, the internal situation in the North is expected to undergo a drastic change. First of all, the North's state power stemming from the military will be neutralized. This is because Pyongyang has pursued a military-priority policy with the pretext of a hostile relationship with the United States. This change in the North's conventional policy line could bring about a significant change in the landscape of Korean security.

Attention also is paid to when President Clinton will visit North Korea. If Gore wins the presidential election with a landslide, Clinton's North Korean visit within the year will be almost certain. If the Clinton visit to Pyongyang is realized within the year, his North Korean visit will be coincided with the visit to Seoul by Kim Yong-Nam, chairman of the Presidium of the North Korean Supreme People's Assembly, slated for December, thus invigorating trilateral contacts through the summit-level talks in the two Koreas.

Kim Young-Sik spear@donga.com