- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2001

SEOUL North Korea accepted a South Korean proposal yesterday to hold talks next week, clearing the way for a resumption of the stalled reconciliation process after a six-month chill.
The development came as a relief for South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, whose government was under pressure to show results from his "sunshine" policy of engaging the communist North.
Opposition leaders had dismissed Mr. Kim's approach as one-sided appeasement, and the National Assembly voted earlier this week for the ouster of the Cabinet minister in charge of North Korea policy. The entire Cabinet then offered to resign, and the president was expected to choose new ministers as early as today.
South Korea yesterday proposed a resumption of talks with the North, from Sept. 15 to Sept. 18. The proposal came in a telephone call through its liaison office at the border village of Panmunjom and followed a North Korean offer last weekend to restart talks.
North Korea, which broke off talks in March because of tension with the new administration of President Bush, accepted the South Korean suggestion hours later.
"We hope the upcoming talks will produce good results respecting the spirit of the June 15 [2000] summit agreement and living up to the expectations of the whole nation," the South's government quoted a North Korean telegram as saying.
The telegram was referring to a summit last year between leaders of the two Koreas that led to a series of exchanges, including reunions of separated family members and a plan to reconnect a cross-border railway.
The North's foreign news outlet, KCNA, confirmed the telegram had been sent.
On a visit to Tokyo, Yim Sung-joon, South Korean deputy foreign minister, said yesterday that the two sides should discuss "easy" issues such as family reunions and economic issues, the Yonhap news agency reported.
The two sides have a vast array of firepower along the demilitarized zone, which separates the two nations, and troop and weapons reductions or withdrawals are likely to be far trickier issues to resolve.
Some 37,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against the North. In recent months, the North has stepped up demands for the U.S. troops to withdraw.
Mr. Kim got another boost yesterday when Prime Minister Lee Han-dong agreed to stay in office, defying an order to leave from the leadership of his small party, the United Liberal Democrats.
Mr. Lee's party, formerly the junior partner in Mr. Kim's ruling coalition, had sided with the opposition and backed the vote against the unification minister. The coalition collapsed because of the vote.


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