Hopes rise for talks with N Korea

South Korea, the United States and Japan will emerge today from a two- day conference aimed at setting up talks with communist North Korea, in an atmosphere of cautious optimism about the prospects for peace on the peninsula.

The meeting, on the South Korean island of Cheju, is the latest in a series of diplomatic initiatives designed to defuse tension between Seoul and Pyongyang since a tense interlude last month, when troops from the communist North illegally entered the demilitarised zone between the two countries. Its focus has been a proposal, made last month by President Bill Clinton and the South Korean President, Kim Young-sam, for peace talks between the two Koreas, plus the US and China - the four signatories of the Korean Armistice, which brought an uneasy end to the Korean War in 1953.

Ever since then, the two sides have faced one another off across the heavily armed demilitarised zone. All attempts at dialogue between the two Koreas have failed. The North has taken to insisting that it will talk peace with the US alone, but the thought of being left out of any treaty terrifies Seoul, even more than the possibility of a last ditch attack by a desperate North Korean military.

Since the Clinton-Kim proposal, however, the atmosphere has warmed. While it has not yet formally responded to the idea of the four-way talks, Pyongyang has asked for more details on the proposal, and desisted from further provocations on the border. China has been cautiously positive and the South Koreans seem to be overcoming their fear of being sidelined.

Freed of domestic political pressures by its success in recent elections, the government has decided to give the North Korean situation the serious diplomatic attention it requires.

Three days ago, the US ambassador to Seoul, James Laney, delivered a striking speech which recast 43 years of US-South Korean policy on the peninsula. "In the absence of other tools with which to change its circumstances, the North may look for other ways of using the only remaining asset which commands international respect - military might," he told a conference in Seoul. "We should tone down our rhetoric and lurid language [and] realise that they are driven not by arrogance but by insecurity ... Everyone's interests are served by economic assistance to the North, reduction of tensions, and comprehensive North-South engagement."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living