- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 2000

TOKYO The White House will soon announce plans to ease sanctions against North Korea, citing positive developments in Pyongyang's relations with South Korea and Japan, a White House spokesman said Thursday.

"The president announced last September that in principle we would work on an easing of sanctions," White House spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters after a meeting between President Clinton and his South Korean counterpart, Kim Dae-jung.

"We've had a process in place to work through issues related to that, and I would expect we would have an announcement on that very soon," Mr. Crowley said.

Both presidents were in Tokyo to attend a memorial service for the late Japanese prime minister, Keizo Obuchi. Their meeting came just days before next week's June 12-14 historic summit in Pyongyang between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and South Korea's president.

Both the summit and the prospect of reduced sanctions are seen as the fruit of Kim Dae-jung's so-called "sunshine policy" toward the North and of the patient diplomacy of U.S. special envoy William Perry.

Mr. Crowley said the announcement was not contingent on a positive outcome at the summit. He declined to say which sanctions might be eased and offered no time frame.

The United States lifted most trade and investment sanctions last September, but the bureaucratic procedures for bringing those changes into effect are still under way.

In addition, some sanctions remain on defense-related goods and services.

During their Tokyo meeting, Kim Dae-jung told Mr. Clinton the summit would be "a turning point" in relations between the two Koreas, whose armies face each other across perhaps the most heavily fortified border in the world.

Mr. Clinton "pledged that as this process goes forward, the United States will do all it can to help," Mr. Crowley said.

"We view North Korea's engagements with various countries in the region in a very positive light," Mr. Crowley said. "Our dealings with North Korea in recent months have been very constructive.

"Obviously, we have facing us an historic North-South summit. So I think we are encouraged by the way North Korea is adjusting and approaching these issues in a different way than they have in the past."

Mr. Clinton told Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori that he was in complete accord with his South Korean counterpart as he prepares for the summit.

"Going into the summit, there is really no daylight between the United States and South Korea on the proper approach to North Korea," Ken Lieberthal, senior White House adviser on Asian affairs, told reporters after that meeting.

The recent visit to Beijing by Kim Jong-il was a sign that North Korea is seriously considering opening up to the outside world, according to prominent U.S. and Japanese experts.

"The form is not so important as the improvement in mood," said Takehiro Suzuki of the Tokyo Foundation.

Larry Wortzel, director of the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation, said, "You get the idea that their behavior is beginning to change."

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