Former U.S. President Bill Clinton yesterday arrived in North Korea nine years after he canceled a planned visit in the final years of his term to resolve North Koreas nuclear program.
Amid thawing inter-Korean relations following the historic inter-Korean summit in 2000, Jo Myong Rok, first vice chairman of North Koreas powerful National Defense Commission, visited Washington for talks with Clinton in October that year.
Following that meeting, Jo and then U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright adopted through dialogue a joint communiqué on removing hostilities between Washington and Pyongyang, mutual respect for sovereignty, non-use of military force, and the principle of non-interference in the other partys internal affairs.
Jo also presented North Korean leader Kim Jong Ils invitation to Clinton to visit North Korea. In return, Albright visited Pyongyang 10 days later and secured a moratorium on North Koreas missile launch, as Washington stepped up efforts to prepare for Clintons visit to Pyongyang. As a result, Clinton is known to have been considering setting up bilateral ties with Pyongyang in his scheduled visit in November that year.
Experts belatedly said Washington took the move due to Clintons intent to quickly resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis and missile program, which emerged as threats to the American mainland following North Koreas test firing of its Taepodong 1 missile in 1998.
The visit never materialized, however. Republican George W. Bushs victory in the U.S. presidential election in 2000 put the brakes on Clintons visit in Clintons final months in office. Clinton agonized over peace in the Middle East and the North Korean problem, but eventually chose to focus on the Middle East. This effectively nullified his planned visit to Pyongyang.
At the time, Clinton reportedly even proposed inviting Kim to the U.S., but the North Korean leader rejected the offer.
Clinton struggled due to North Korea throughout his two terms, from the first nuclear crisis and rumors of war on the Korean Peninsula. He clashed with Seoul under the Kim Young-sam administration over the direction of North Korea policy, but helped implement the sunshine policy of engaging North Korea with the Kim Dae-jung government.
In 1999, Clinton also adopted as the framework of U.S. policy toward North Korea the Perry Process. This was a comprehensive approach toward resolving the North Korean nuclear and missile crisis through the lifting of economic sanctions and normalization of bilateral relations.
Attention is now focusing on whether the former U.S. president can open a new chapter in North Korea-U.S. relations and pave the way for peace on the Korean Peninsula in his first visit to the communist country.