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Will the speed of S-N cooperation slow down?

Posted October. 18, 2000 21:26,   


Major events in South-North Korea relations have been deferred one after another. Government authorities were somewhat relaxed until early this month, noting that changes in some plans might be inevitable due to the North¡¯s internal problems, such as the events to mark the 55th anniversary (Oct. 1) of the founding of the Worker¡¯s Party. But they looked anxious as North Korea and the United States accelerated the improvement of their relations after issuing a joint statement on Oct. 12 in Washington.

In particular, the government seemed to feel alienated Tuesday when some 40 members of a U.S. advance team entered North Korea to discuss the procedures for the scheduled visits by President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Pyongyang. On the very day, the North notified the South of its decision to put off the inter-Korean working-level meeting for economic cooperation slated for Wednesday.

The government said in an official reaction that the progress in North Korea-U.S. relations will be helpful to the development of South-North ties. Especially, related authorities say that North Korea-U.S. relations will exert no particular influence on inter-Korean ties since the diplomatic department in charge of foreign relations and the unification front department of the Worker¡¯s Party are very different organizations.

However, the plan for the second exchange visits by separated families slated for Nov. 2 is expected to hit a snag. Whether the families are still alive or dead should have been confirmed already through the exchange of lists of candidates for the mutual visits, but the Northern side is keeping silent. Originally, the government had planned to exchange the list of 200 preliminary candidates on Oct. 4 and confirm whether their relatives are alive or dead around Oct. 13, but the North Korean officials are only repeating that they have not yet received any instructions from the government.

Some government officials pointed out that the North is apparently maintaining a composed attitude after it received 500,000 tons of grain aid. They said that it is problematic for the North to delay the timetable unilaterally, although it may have its own internal problems such as a lack of manpower.

The government will express its regret with the North¡¯s attitude and will urge the North to proceed with agreed timetable and the separated family reunion as soon as possible, the officials said.