- The Washington Times - Friday, January 16, 2009



Former South Korean President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kim Dae-jung urged the Obama administration to offer North Korea a wholesale package deal to give up its nuclear stockpile and establish relations with the outside world.

Mr. Kim is best known as the architect of South Korea’s “sunshine policy” of engagement with North Korea, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Engagement served as a model for Clinton administration negotiations that included a visit to Pyongyang by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.

“The new administration is likely to move down the path of direct dialogue and package deals that former U.S. President [Bill] Clinton had taken,” Mr. Kim, 85, said in a wide-ranging session with foreign reporters.

He spoke on a day rife with speculation about future ties with the communist state: South Korean envoys headed north with an offer to buy nuclear fuel rods, and a leading South Korean news agency reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had named a successor.

One of President Bush’s first acts in office was to publicly reject the engagement policy during a White House summit with Kim Dae-jung. Mr. Bush later included North Korea in his famous “axis of evil” speech and did not embrace engagement until his second administration.

Mr. Kim said the North Korean nuclear issue was “less intractable” than the Iranian issue, and a successful resolution with Pyongyang would make it easier for the United States to deal with Iran.

President-elect Barack Obama has signaled that he is willing to establish direct ties with North Korea and even to personally meet with its leader, if it leads to denuclearization.

The North reached an agreement with the U.S. and four other regional powers to dismantle its one working nuclear reactor, which provided fuel for a 2006 nuclear test.

The North blew up a cooling tower at its reactor but, it halted further efforts to dismantle its nuclear facilities in August because of a disagreement over verification measures sought by Washington.

Mr. Kim said Pyongyang’s desire for improved relations with the U.S. is “an indisputable fact,” and that it wants to resolve “all outstanding issues.”

North Korea is known to desire a formal peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended fighting in the 1950-1953 Korean War.

As to whether Kim Jong-il could be trusted to keep his word, Kim Dae-jung insisted that regardless of his trustworthiness, negotiations were a necessity.

The former president cited the example of President Nixon’s meeting with Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung.

He admitted his disappointment that Kim Jong-il did not keep to his agreement to attend a summit in Seoul after the two leaders’ landmark 2000 meeting in Pyongyang.

Mr. Kim revealed that his North Korean counterpart had offered to meet him in China or Russia, but not Seoul, where, “He knows many people do not like him.”

Asked who might succeed Kim Jong-il, Kim Dae-jung said he expected the dictator to nominate one of his sons as a symbolic leader, but that the real power would likely be held by a Cabinet.

South Korea’s Yonhap newswire on Thursday quoted an unnamed intelligence official as saying that Kim Jong-il’s third son, Kim Jong-un, has been put forward for the leadership position.

Thought to be in his mid-20s, he is Swiss educated and believed to be a fan of rock star Eric Clapton.

Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper, citing unidentified U.S. intelligence sources, said that eldest son Kim Jong-nam is more likely to be an interim leader.

There was no comment Thursday from the North.

North Korean watchers awaiting the March 8 Party Congress for any developments in the leadership area, including whether the youngest son is named to an official position.

On the diplomatic front, the South Korean delegation that headed to Pyongyang on Thursday is offering to buy 14,000 nuclear fuel rods from the Yongbyon reactor.

It is the highest-profile delegation to North Korea so far sent by President Lee Myung-bak, who took office last year.

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