Go to contents

[Focus] Why is NIS director on secret visit to U.S.?

Posted February. 14, 2001 19:26,   


Efforts by South Korea and the United States to fine-tune their North Korea policy coordination efforts are getting into full stride.

Lim Dong-Won, director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), is now on a secret trip to the U.S., following up on Foreign Affairs-Trade Minister Lee Joung-Binn`s visit to Washington Feb. 5-10. Lim`s visit is drawing attention for two reasons.

First, he is visiting the U.S. at a time when cooperation between Seoul and Washington is urgently needed. There have been concerns that differences in the two countries` approaches to North Korea, a result of the transition to the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, may develop into a source of friction.

Secondly, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is expected to visit Seoul during the first half of this year.

Both the NIS and the Ministry of Unification have kept silent about the background of Lee¡¯s U.S. visit. A related government official said Tuesday, "Since Lee is the very architect of the engagement policy toward North Korea, he will hold detailed talks with U.S. officials in charge of North Korea policy to discuss the results of (the South¡¯s) contacts with the North and ways to induce the North to change.¡¯¡¯

Judging from the official¡¯s statement, Lim is expected to meet with his U.S. counterpart George Tenet, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and other senior U.S. officials during his stay in the Washington. Lim is likely to touch on a broad range of issues, such as Seoul¡¯s engagement policy toward Pyongyang, the second inter-Korean summit, possible changes in the outlook of Kim Jong-Il, chairman of the North Korea`s National Defense Commission, and the setting up of consulting lines between intelligence authorities in the two countries.

Lim will be hoping to narrow gaps in the two countries` views on the military threat posed by the North. As evidence of Washington`s increasingly conservative view on Pyongyang, CIA director Tenet spoke of the North¡¯s weapons of mass destruction and military threat during his Senate confirmation hearing on Feb. 7.

Lim is expected to outline for the U.S. details of the North Korean leader`s planned Seoul visit and the "Declaration of Peace on the Korean Peninsula¡¯¡¯ that sources say is to be announced during his trip.

Seoul has been holding unofficial talks with Washington on the North Korean leader¡¯s reciprocal visit to Seoul, according to government sources.

The U.S. was apparently eager to receive the briefing from Lim on the South Korean government¡¯s North Korea policy for reconciliation and cooperation, better known as the "Sunshine Policy."

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade looked somewhat embarrassed about Lim¡¯s sudden trip to the U.S. An official said, "It seems that the two countries began discussing Lim¡¯s visit a long time ago. At the same time, it does not look good for the intelligence agency chief to be meeting with top U.S. foreign policy officials such a short time after the foreign ministers¡¯ talks,¡¯¡¯ he said.