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The Korean summit

Editorial, Mainichi Shimbun,
Thursday 14 June 2000

On the morning of June 13, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung was greeted by North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Il with a firm handshake at the airport on the outskirts of Pyongyang. The dramatic scene was broadcast live to the world.

The summit meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas, the first since the Korean Peninsula was divided 55 years ago, got off to an unexpectedly warm start. I have finally made it here after many years and many detours, declared President Kim. The deep emotions expressed by the South Korean president were shared by most of the South Korean people. We extend our heartfelt blessings to this historic summit meeting in Pyongyang and hope that it will form an unshakable foundation for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The Korean War broke out a half century ago in June 1950, killing 1.26 million Koreans and separating millions of families. Since an armistice was concluded, the relations between the two Koreas have been marked by suspicion and conflict. Though some degree of thawing has occurred since the joint declaration of 1972 and the signing of the basic accord of 1992, the leaders of the two Koreas had never met before.

This summit meeting is the fruit of President Kim's Sunshine Policy toward the North, but Kim Jong Il also deserves praise for agreeing to host his southern counterpart.

A direct dialogue between the two leaders is fundamental to building a framework for peace. We urge them to engage in frank discussions and to strive to ensure that the summit becomes a turning point in the history of the two Koreas. However, it is important that we not place excessively high expectations on the summit. President Kim said in Seoul prior to flying to Pyongyang, I do not believe that all of our problems will be resolved at once.

We hope that Kim Jong Il will use his discussions with his South Korean counterpart to explain to the world the actions that he plans to take to further peace on the Korean Peninsula as well as the kind of relationship North Korea intends to pursue in the future with the nations of East Asia. The world's attention is focused on the words of Kim Jong Il, and North Korea will only be harmed if he continues to cultivate the image of a mysterious leader.

We also urge President Kim to develop a relationship with Kim Jong Il that will permit friendly and frank discussions. To open up North Korea to the world is a task that is suited to an Asian politician of President Kim's stature. We also hope that he informs his North Korean host of Japan's passionate interest in normalizing relations with North Korea, and relays our concerns regarding both Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development programs and its involvement in the kidnapping of Japanese citizens.

As a reciprocal gesture, we hope that Kim Jong Il will agree to visit Seoul. Both countries need to make the effort to ensure that Kim Dae-jung's visit to Pyongyang amounts to something more than a momentary political spectacle.