The Korea Herald


Dossier reveals accounts of 1st high-level diplomacy between N. Korea, US

By Yonhap

Published : April 6, 2023 - 09:23

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The Yongbyon nuclear complex in North Korea (Yonhap) The Yongbyon nuclear complex in North Korea (Yonhap)

The South Korean government on Thursday made public newly declassified documents on the first-ever senior-level diplomacy in 1992 between the United States and North Korea, offering a glimpse into the diplomatic tug-of-war over the North's nuclear program.

The set of mostly 1992 diplomatic documents, spanning some 360,000 pages, highlights accounts of discussions between Washington and Pyongyang amid the then reconciliatory mood fueled over the Korean Peninsula following the adoption of the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement and the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula at the end of 1991.

Washington and Pyongyang, however, failed to bridge their differences on nuclear inspections and ended up making no progress. Later in March of the following year, North Korea declared its intent to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, marking the beginning of the first North Korean nuclear crisis.

The dossier quotes Richard Solomon, then US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, as telling then South Korean Foreign Minister Lee Sang-ok in March of 1992 of his impression that the North seemed to have recognized US forces in the South as a "source of stability" in a Washington-Pyongyang meeting held two months prior in New York.

The New York meeting between Kim Yong-sun, a close confidant of then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il who handled international affairs at the North's ruling party, and Arnold Kanter, then US undersecretary of state for political affairs, in January of that year marked the first-ever high-level meeting between the two countries.

Documents also include firsthand accounts from diplomats at the South and North Korean missions in Somalia cooperating to escape the country during the 1991 civil war. Events of the life-or-death incident were depicted in the popular 2019 South Korean blockbuster film "Escape from Mogadishu."

Accounts show there were efforts on the part of South Korean diplomats to show "maximum consideration" for the North Koreans during the escape.

Kang Shin-sung, then South Korean ambassador to Somalia, wrote that the South Koreans made every effort to avoid any behavior or action that would give the impression of exploiting the difficult situation of the North Koreans. The ambassador also said "political discussions were kept to a minimum" during the ordeal.

The documents also detail measures and discussions to protect Koreans during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, as well as preparations for the first visit to South Korea by then Russian President Boris Yeltsin. (Yonhap)