Compromise Clears Way for U.N. Debate on Korea
In an unusual compromise, U.S., Soviet and Chinese diplomats agreed Wednesday to include a debate on Korean unification in the General Assembly, with representatives of both north and south invited to address the world body for the first time.
The agreement was formalized in the General Assembly’s steering committee when the United States, Britain, Japan and others who had offered an item honoring the 40th anniversary of South Korea withdrew it in favor of one entitled “Promotion of Peace, Reconciliation and Dialogue in the Korean Peninsula.” Allied diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, credited Chinese Ambassador Li Luye as the author of the new item, adopted unanimously.
Both the Seoul and Pyongyang governments have observer missions here. With the exception of Pope John Paul II, no representative of a non-member state has ever addressed the General Assembly.
The two Koreas have been the subject of one of the longest-running feuds, and some of the bitterest debates, in U.N. history. In 1950, U.N. troops, at the instigation of the United States, began fighting a full-fledged war to defend South Korea following an invasion by the north. China, not a U.N. member at the time, sent troops to bolster the North Koreans.
Since the end of the war in 1953, the Soviet Bloc and later China have backed resolutions condemning the continuing presence of U.S. troops in South Korea and demanding their withdrawal.
In recent years, divisive General Assembly debates have been avoided by agreement of both sides to delete the question from the agenda. But last month, the Seoul government, wishing to capitalize on what it hoped would be a successful Summer Olympic Games, asked its allies to sponsor the anniversary resolution.
The resolution stressed South Korea’s willingness “to resolve inter-Korean problems” and suggested that representatives of Seoul and “other interested parties” be invited to speak on the issue.
Last week, China’s Li reportedly suggested the alternate proposal, which would stress peace and reconciliation on the divided peninsula rather than taking note of South Korea’s anniversary.
South Korean President Roh Tae Woo is expected to speak for his government, probably sometime in late October. Kim Il Sung, the strongman of the northern regime, is restricted to ground travel for reasons of health, so a lower-ranking official is expected to be sent.