- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

SEOUL A South Korean presidential envoy met North Korean leader Kim Jong-il yesterday to urge the communist country to ease tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula by resuming dialogue with the United States and South Korea.
Kim Jong-il held a dinner for the envoy, Lim Dong-won, in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, said Kim Hong-je, a South Korean spokesman.
Mr. Lim delivered a letter from South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and "relayed President Kim's proposal for peace and cooperation between the two Koreas," the spokesman told reporters in Seoul.
Before leaving for North Korea, Mr. Lim said he was carrying a U.S. proposal for Kim Jong-il to resume dialogue with Washington over the North's weapons of mass destruction.
It was not clear whether and how Kim Jong-il responded to the offers.
Earlier yesterday, South Korean officials said Mr. Lim's talks in Pyongyang ran into difficulty as North Korea accused Seoul and Washington of plotting to provoke a war on the divided Korean Peninsula. Mr. Lim arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday for three days of talks on easing tensions.
Contacts between the United States and North Korea, which expanded during the last months of the Clinton administration, halted when President Bush took office last year.
Washington fears that the North is developing missiles and weapons of mass destruction. The North is believed to have 5,000 tons of chemical weapons and missiles capable of reaching part of the continental United States.
Bilateral relations further deteriorated after Mr. Bush designated North Korea in January as part of an "axis of evil" with ambitions to develop weapons of mass destruction.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Washington was ready for dialogue with the North "anytime, anywhere" after North Korea announced Wednesday night that it would resume dialogue with a U.S.-led international consortium building two nuclear reactors in North Korea for generating electricity.
China also welcomed North Korea's offer and offered to help push the two Koreas toward better relations. "Any efforts toward the stability of the Korean Peninsula, China will endorse. And China will make its own contributions as well," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said yesterday without elaborating.
The nuclear reactors being built in North Korea are part of a 1994 deal under which North Korea has frozen its suspected nuclear-weapons program.
The $4.6 billion reactor project is several years behind schedule. Citing the delay, North Korea has refused U.N. inspections of its nuclear program.
Yesterday, North Korea reiterated that Washington must take "emergency" measures to compensate for the loss of electricity caused by the delay. It urged Washington to abide by a provision of the 1994 agreement that commits the United States to provide North Korea with fuel oil to cover its needs until the reactors become operational.

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