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Albright visit to N. Korea unprecedented

Posted October. 20, 2000 12:31,   


The relationship between the United States and North Korea is improving so rapidly as State Secretary Madeleine Albright's visit to Pyongyang less than two weeks after Jo Myong-Rok, first vice chairman of the North Korean Defense Commission, visited Washington on Sept. 23-25.

This development is rare in terms of diplomatic practice, considering that the two nations, which maintained five decades of hostile relations since the 1950-1953 Korean War, despite the fact that much time and complicated procedures usually are required for diplomatic rapprochement.

The reason why the United States and North Korea are speeding up for the improvement of their bilateral relations is closely related to the fact that President Bill Clinton's office term is ending next January. President Clinton might be desirous to make a breakthrough to the two nations' standoff by visiting Pyongyang and meeting with North Korean Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-Il, before the political pendulum is swung into the new president-elect following the Nov. 7 presidential vote.

In particular, in light of his scheduled visits to Brunei and Vietnam in mid-November, it would be necessary for him to advance his North Korean visit schedule for a combined trip to these three countries, according to diplomatic observers.

A diplomatic source in Washington said that Clinton seems to be determined to create a historic momentum for ending the relationship of hostility with Vietnam and North Korea, with which the United States waged hot wars since the end of the Second World War.

In addition to political considerations, Secretary Albright's visit to North Korea has another implication that Washington will implement the "Perry process" provided by William Perry, former U.S. policy coordinator for North Korea.

At first, Washington is learned to have intended to invite Kim Yong-Sun, Worker¡¯s Party secretary, or some other high-ranking North Korean officials to visit the United States, and then dispatch Secretary Albright in return for the North Korean official's visit. However, the Washington plan was aborted due to Pyongyang's delay in its sending such a high-caliber official to the United States.

But a breakthrough was found with the unexpected U.S. visit by First Vice Defense Commission Chairman Jo.

When Albright goes to Pyongyang, she is expected to hold intensive talks on Clinton's proposed North Korean visit. During her stay in the North, the state secretary is likely to reach broad consensus with the North Korean leadership with regard to pending issues such as the suspension of the North's missile development and exports and freeze of the nuclear proliferation.

Nonetheless, the agreed items will be formally announced, as the agreement between President Clinton and North Korean leader Kim in the form of a joint summit communiqué, so as to play up it as Clinton's landmark diplomatic achievement.