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By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA Associated Press Writer
September 15, 2001, 12:15 PM EDT
SEOUL, South Korea -- Though divided by a sealed border and a half-century
of conflict, South and North Korea were united Saturday in their
condemnation of the terrorist acts in the United States.
Arriving in Seoul for talks, a top North Korean envoy said the attacks at
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were "shocking" and "very
The comments by Kim Ryong Song were an unusual show of sympathy from a
communist country that has considered the United States its chief enemy ever
since the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea has been campaigning to get off a U.S. list of nations that
sponsor terrorism, which accords a pariah status to the North and prevents
it from receiving some international aid.
Kim, a senior councilor in North Korea's Cabinet, and 26 other delegates
traveled from Pyongyang via Beijing for four days of talks aimed at reviving
reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.
Officials contacts broke down six months ago because of tension between the
North and the United States, the South's main ally.
Kim discussed the attacks in the United States with South Korean officials.
"It is a shocking incident which we think is very regrettable," he said. "I
think the incident will have nothing to do with the South-North talks, which
are supposed to handle internal national issues."
Hosting a dinner for the North Korean delegation, South Korean Prime
Minister Lee Han-dong said: "Countries of the world must participate in
efforts to root out antihuman and anti-civilization terrorism that kills
On Saturday, the North's media repeated a demand that Washington withdraw
37,000 troops that it keeps in South Korea as a deterrent against the North.
Earlier, South Korea's main opposition party rejected a proposal by
President Kim Dae-jung that negotiators from the two Koreas adopt a joint
statement against terrorism because of the recent attacks.
The Grand National Party said North Korea should first apologize for alleged
terrorist acts against the South, including the 1987 bombing of a Korean Air
jet near Myanmar that killed all 115 people on board.
"If there is no guarantee of changes in North Korea's attitude and policy,
the anti-terrorist statement would end up indulging the North," said Kwon
Chul-hyon, a party spokesman.
Kim Ryong Song, the North Korean delegate, said the talks in Seoul would
mark a "turning point" in inter-Korean ties.
"Our delegation members want to commit ourselves to do our best to yield
excellent results," he said.
Kim Dae-jung flew to Pyongyang last year for an unprecedented summit with
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The meeting led to a series of conciliatory
gestures, including three temporary reunions of relatives who had been
separated before or during the Korean War.
Copyright © 2001, The Associated Press