- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2002

The congressman who pioneered personal contacts across the Cold War divide with the Soviet Union said yesterday he plans to pursue the same strategy when he travels to North Korea next week.
Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican, said he would present to North Korean officials proposals to link U.S. educational institutions and think tanks with their North Korean counterparts when a congressional delegation visits Pyongyang later this month.
While President Bush has raised legitimate fears about North Korea's missile program and security policy, "it is time to stop the belligerent rhetoric, time to reach out and find common ground," said Mr. Weldon, who chairs the House Armed Services subcommittee on military procurement.
"This is the same approach we used 15 years ago to help open up the Soviet Union," Mr. Weldon told a conference on the future of Northeast Asia sponsored by The Washington Times Foundation, the National Federation for Women Legislators and the Women's Federation for World Peace. The three-day conference was held in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the founding of The Washington Times.
Mr. Weldon said he would propose to North Korean officials the establishment of an academic exchange relationship between a top U.S. college and a North Korean university. Another proposal calls for direct contacts between students at Philadelphia's Drexel University and North Korean students.
The Pennsylvania Republican also said he would propose a summit between leading U.S. and North Korean think tanks to be held in the United States. It would focus on the future of relations between the two states, which have endured more than a half-century of hostility.
Mr. Bush in February included Pyongyang in his "axis of evil," but the State Department announced late last month that the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-il had accepted a standing offer to resume talks after an 18-month freeze. North Korea's economy is in a shambles, but it remains a source of regional concern because of its missile program and active arms sales abroad.
Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who addressed the conference, appeared to second Mr. Weldon's push for greater personal contacts to ease regional tensions.
The conference "is an opportunity for these three countries to come together as one to exercise leadership in the 21st century," he said.
Carl W. Ford Jr., assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, told the conference that concerns about North Korea have united Japan, South Korea and the United States, but that the relationship between the three democracies should deepen no matter what happens eventually to the North Korean regime.
Mr. Ford recalled that he often found himself mediating disputes between Seoul and Tokyo earlier in his career, but that the two are now working much more harmoniously on security and regional issues.
"South Korea and Japan are cooperating in ways that would have been unimaginable a few years ago," Mr. Ford said.

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