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2 Koreas Sign Agreement on Reconciliation

TIMES STAFF WRITER

North and South Korea today signed a nonaggression accord that lays the groundwork for ending decades of deep hostility and begins the process of reconciling and reunifying the two nations.

The agreement, reached Thursday during the fifth round of talks by the prime ministers that began in September, 1990, represents “a historic milestone,” said South Korean spokesman Lee Dong Bok.

“It’s a historic night,” North Korea’s Prime Minister Yon Hyong Muk said in a dinner toast after the two-day talks at a hotel outside Seoul.

“A new light has been thrown on our national unification,” added Yon, whose country’s increasing international isolation and dire economic straits were widely seen as key motivations for its willingness to accept the pact on peaceful coexistence with the south.

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His counterpart, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Won Shik, called the agreement “a New Year’s present” for the Korean people.

The two prime ministers signed the five-page accord, the most important political agreement between north and south since the division of the peninsula created two Koreas after World War II. They are to meet again Feb. 18 in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, to exchange formal instruments of ratification.

The new accord includes provisions for avoiding military confrontation, increasing commercial ties and linking up roads and railway lines cut off when the country was divided in 1945. The two sides also agreed to work toward replacing the current armistice, signed at the end of the Korean War in 1953, with a formal peace treaty.

The two sides also issued a statement recognizing that “there should not be nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.” Yon said that Korea should “work for true peace without nuclear weapons.”

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They failed, however, to reach a formal agreement on a separate plan making the Korean Peninsula a nuclear-free zone.

Such an agreement--which among other points would permit mutual inspections of nuclear facilities and nuclear storage sites--would address the concerns of major powers such as the United States, China and Japan that North Korea is close to developing its own nuclear weapons via a secret arms program.

North and South Korea said Wednesday that they are close to agreement on the nuclear pact, whose progress was prodded along by some key American moves, such as the Bush Administration’s agreement to allow the north to inspect U.S. military facilities in the south and Washington’s reported swift removal of nuclear weapons from the south. The two sides will meet again this month to continue discussions on a nuclear agreement.

When asked how the south could sign an agreement with an enemy nation without resolving nuclear issues, spokesman Lee answered: “Without assurances, would we have agreed?”

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The acceptance of the nuclear-free proposal--an action that some sources indicated could occur very soon--and the nonaggression pact, in combination, could set the stage for withdrawal of the 39,000 American troops stationed in South Korea.

But some analysts cautioned that North Korea could easily back out on the deals it has struck, as it has in the past.

“North Korea has made an adjustment because they have serious domestic problems right now and they want to avoid being totally isolated,” said Kim Chang Soon, chief director of the Institute of North Korean Studies. “There is no guarantee they will implement the agreement.”

Kim also predicted that North Korea’s more flexible attitude toward the outside world will be accompanied by even tighter controls internally to prop up the rule of President Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il.

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Nevertheless, South Korean officials were elated by the breakthrough. Yon was expected to meet with South Korean President Roh Tae Woo today. And there is speculation that the nonaggression pact could pave the way for the first summit talks between Roh and Kim Il Sung.

The two sides agreed to discuss and implement phased reduction of weapons of mass destruction and surprise attack, and to develop measures to prevent accidental hostilities along the border. One of the first actions, for example, is expected to be the installation of a military hot line between the two sides. Under the agreement, each side will notify the other before military exercises, and they will agree to allow observers from the other side.

The newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported Thursday that South Korea and the United States have agreed to suspend joint military exercises, as North Korea has demanded, if North Korea agrees to allow inspection of its nuclear facilities.

One of North Korea’s greatest concessions was its agreement to discuss a final peace treaty with South Korea to replace the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War. North Korea previously had insisted on negotiating that issue with the United States, not South Korea.

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Liaison offices will also be established at the border village of Panmunjom to help reunite separated families and to coordinate future cultural and commercial exchanges. The agreement provides for unrestricted inter-Korean travel as well as the establishment of mail and telecommunications services.

North Korean reporters attending the ministerial sessions here said progress was rapid because the northern delegation was ordered by Kim Il Sung to reach an agreement.

After World War II, Korea was divided when the Soviet Union occupied the north end of the peninsula and the United States occupied the south. When the Communist north invaded the south in 1950, the United States and other nations intervened under the U.N. flag. By the time fighting ended in 1953 and an armistice was signed, the country was in ruins.

Both nations have since maintained large, costly military forces across a border that is one of the world’s dangerous hot spots.

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The tension between the two countries has been accentuated in the years since the war by the south’s development of a booming economy, while the north has lagged far behind.

The north’s international situation has grown more awkward with the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and the increasing attention paid to its apparent effort to develop nuclear weapons.

Bridging the Gap in Korea

Key points of reconciliation accord between North and South Korea:

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NONAGGRESSION. Agreed to issue joint declaration of non-aggression. Both sides will give warnings of troop movements and exercises and install hot line between military commanders.

PEACE TREATY. North Korea agreed to negotiate with the south on treaty to replace armistice that ended 1950-53 Korean War.

NUCLEAR INSPECTIONS. Joint military committee to be formed within a month after agreement is put into force will discuss issues of nuclear development or deployment.

TERRORISM, OVERTHROW OF GOVERNMENTS. Agreed to ban terrorism and attempts to overthrow each other’s government.

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REUNITING OF FAMILIES. Agreed to set up liaison offices at border village of Panmunjom to help reunite 10 million families separated by division of Korean Peninsula.

LEGAL RESTRAINTS. North Korea dropped its demand that South Korea repeal laws restricting contact with the north.

FREE TRAVEL, CORRESPONDENCE. Agreed to promote free travel and correspondence, with details to be worked out.


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