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World praise for Korean pact

A personal relationship between South Korea's Kim Dae-jung, right, and North Korea's Kim Jong Il may be a positive development, observers say  

Nations view agreement cautiously
but see hope for reunification

June 15, 2000
Web posted at: 8:18 p.m. EST (0018 GMT)

(CNN) -- World leaders praise the agreement between North and South Korea to work toward eventual reunification but most eye North Korea's newfound sociability warily and call for strong follow-up to the historic pact.

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung traveled to Pyongyang, North Korea, for a three-day summit with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Il, who has accepted an invitation to meet with President Kim in Seoul, the South Korean capital, at a later date.

The meeting was the first ever between leaders of the two countries. The Korean Peninsula split into the communist North and capitalist South in 1948.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori gave the Korean summit the most ringing praise, drawing parallels to the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

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    "As in the case of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the agreement constitutes a major change toward peace," Mori said.

    "In the meantime, we hope that it will have a favorable effect on normalization of talks between Japan and North Korea," Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono said.

    Japan and North Korea held talks in April -- their first in seven years -- but the talks ended with no agreement.

    In China, Beijing hailed the summit's success and urged North and South Korean officials to move toward reunification through compromise and cooperation.

    "We hope the two sides will continually enhance mutual respect in a spirit of compromise and cooperation and strengthen exchanges and cooperation in every field in order to create favorable conditions to realize final, peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said.

    "The Chinese side believes the Pyongyang summit has produced important results and is a major event of historic significance. It has made a valuable contribution to maintaining Korean peace and stability," he said.

    Caution in the West

    U.S. President Bill Clinton said the Koreas now have "a lot of work to do." "It's just the first step," he said. "But it's clearly a move in the right direction, and everyone else in the world should be encouraged by this."

    The American ambassador to South Korea, Stephen Bosworth, told CNN that the "best gauge to North Korean intentions are North Korea's actions and its statements."

    "This is clearly the best hope we have had for reconciliation and eventual reunification," he said. "A lot of work remains to be done, but I think the personal relationship which Kim and Kim seem to have established between them is a very positive development."

    The United States joined South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armed cease-fire agreement that left the North and South still technically at war.

    Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Losukov said the Korean pact will be "very complicated" to fulfill.

    "But," he said, "this is a very important first step."

    "Russia is prepared to make a strong contribution to the solution of the Korean problem and to aid further inter-Korean dialogue," he said.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Berlin for a summit with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, is expected to go to Pyongyang in a few weeks. When he does, he will be the first Russian -- or even Soviet -- leader to do so.

    Correspondent Marina Kamimura and Reuters contributed to this report.

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