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Friday, July 2, 1999 Published at 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Summit focuses on Korean tensions

Tensions are high again between the two Koreas

South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung has begun a series of meetings in Washington with President Clinton and other senior officials.

The talks are expected to concentrate on the current rise in tension between South and North Korea, as well as South Korea's recovery from the Asian economic crisis.

Shortly before President Kim left Seoul, South Korea suspended talks with the North which had been aimed at reuniting families split up by the Korean War nearly 50 years ago.

Key ally

Andrew Wood: "Washington trying to alleviate tension between North and South Korea"
The US is South Korea's main ally, providing 37,000 US troops to defend the South against its communist neighbour.

The Clinton administration has backed President Kim's "Sunshine Policy" of trying to reduce tension between the Koreas by engaging the North.

The US is also the biggest donor of food aid to the famine-stricken North.

But critics in the US Congress have denounced that policy as "misguided", saying it has not persuaded North Korea to modify its often threatening behaviour.

Arms race

[ image: Kim Dae-Jung:
Kim Dae-Jung: "Sunshine Policy" not yet bearing fruit
Mr Clinton is expected to urge South Korean restraint in its own missile defence programme, and avoid an intensified arms race in the divided peninsula.

Later Mr Kim is scheduled to hold talks with former Defence Secretary William Perry who is conducting a review of US policy towards North Korea.

The Pentagon believes North Korea is preparing to test-fire a ballistic missile - despite US warnings of "severe consequences" - and American officials will press Mr Kim to co-ordinate his country's response with Washington.

Pyongyang conducted a missile test last August, to the alarm of many countries in the Asia-Pacific region - and the United States.

Human rights award

During his visit to the US Mr Kim will also receive a prize - the Liberty Medal - to mark his contribution to human rights, before heading on to Canada.

The medal will be awarded at a ceremony in Philadelphia expected to be the high point of the visit.

It is given every 4 July to an individual considered an international champion of democracy. Mr Kim still bears a limp resulting from on of a series of assassination attempts during his opposition to previous South Korean military regimes.

Previous recipients include Nelson Mandela and the Polish trades union leader, Lech Walesa.

President Kim will then leave for Canada for another summit, returning to South Korea on Wednesday.

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