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Obama Urged to Meet Kim Jong-Il for N. Korea's Denuclearization: Rep. Chung Dong-Young
Former South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-Young Friday called on U.S. President Barack Obama to have a one-on-one meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il for the North's nuclear dismantlement, Yonhap News reported on Sept. 19 in its dispatch from Washington D.C. filed by its correspondent Hwang Doo-hyong.

"I propose that President Obama invite Chairman Kim Jong-il to Washington if negotiations on the North Korean nuclear issue make some progress," Rep. Chung of the major opposition Democratic Party was quoted as hav ing said in a speech to the National Press Club in D.C. "If Chairman Kim Jong-il's visit to Washington is difficult, President Obama will be able to meet him in a third country."

Chung's proposal came as Obama considers whether to send his point man on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, to Pyongyang to persuade the North Koreans to return to the six-party talks on the North's denuclearization. The talks involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

U.S. officials have said a decision will be made after Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meet with their counterparts from the other parties to the multilateral talks on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week.

Analysts say Bosworth may visit Pyongyang late October or early November after Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao attends a ceremony in Pyongyang in early October to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two communist allies.

Kim Jong-il expressed his intentions to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through both bilateral and multilateral talks when he met with a senior Chinese official, Dai Bigguo, earlier in the day. That represented a major departure from the North's earlier threat to abandon the six-party talks, citing international sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests earlier this year.

Chung claimed that the leaders' meeting will be the only solution to the North Korean nuclear issue.

"President Obama should negotiate with Chairman Kim in person as probably Chairman Kim is the only North Korean diplomat who can guarantee implementation of any agreement," he said. "Experience has taught that working-level negotiations alone cannot make an epochal breakthrough in the North Korean issue due to lack of trust between North Korea and the U.S."

He took note of the aborted summit between Kim and then U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2000.

Kim Jong-il extended an invitation to Clinton at that time, but Clinton did not go to Pyongyang, citing a lack of time in his administration's waning months.

Clinton flew to Pyongyang last month to meet with Kim for three hours and win the release of two American journalists held there for illegal entry.

Chung, who unsuccessfully ran for the South Korean presidency in late 2007 against President Lee Myung-bak, also suggested that the U.S. and North Korea exchange liaison offices in each other's capital to build mutual confidence and promote the nuclear dismantlement talks.

"Imagine the Stars and Stripes flying in the sky in Pyongyang," he said. "The landscape should symbolize the future of North Korea wanting to become a friend of the U.S., not the past of North Korea which made anti-Americanism its state identity."

Normalization of ties is among the clauses in a six-party deal signed in September 2005, along with a massive economic aid and establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

Chung, an ardent advocate of the engagement policy of the late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, opposes sanctions on North Korea.

"Sanctions may improve the environment for negotiations temporarily, but the Bush administration's experience has taught us that sanctions alone cannot resolve the North Korean nuclear issue," he said.

Washington has made it clear that it will continue sanctioning Pyongyang until it returns to the six-party talks and take steps toward its denuclearization.

An overall arms embargo and economic sanctions were imposed under resolutions after the North's missile and nuclear tests earlier this year, and U.S. officials believe they took effect to pressure Kim to make conciliatory overtures after months of provocations.

"If the international community refuses to accept North Korea's proposal for dialogue, the North will work hard to enhance its nuclear capability," he said. "The stronger the North's nuclear capability becomes, the slimmer chances we have for resolution of the nuclear issue."

He said he feared that Obama might repeat what he called the failure of the Bush administration in its pursuit of North Korea's denuclearization by "construing dialogue as rewards."

Bush named North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" with which he would not negotiate, then began engaging the North actively through six-party talks in the later years of his tenure. The delay led to criticism that he allowed North Korea time to enhance its nuclear arsenal.

Pyongyang recently said it has entered the final stages of uranium enrichment, another path for possible production of nuclear weapons aside from its plutonium-based program, which had been dismantled under the six-party deal.

"It is better to negotiate with Chairman Kim now rather than waiting for the post-Kim Jong-il era, which should be more unpredictable," Chung said.






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