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Monday, 10 April, 2000, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Analysis: Korea summit raises hopes
Military parade in North Korea
The Cold War has not yet ended on the Korean Peninsula
By Charles Scanlon in Tokyo

Ever since the death of its founding leader, Kim Il-Sung, six years ago, North Korea has kept the world guessing. Was it heading for confrontation and collapse, or would the new leadership try to engineer a cautious opening to the outside world?

The agreement to a summit meeting with South Korea is the clearest sign yet that it has opted for reform.

The country's supreme ruler, Kim Jong-Il (Kim's son) has used a combination of threats and compromise to improve ties with the United States.

This year, he turned to Western Europe and just last week, North Korea began normalisation talks with Japan.

But the real obstacle has always been relations with the old enemy in South Korea.

Frozen relations

The change of government in Seoul in 1997 and the South's adoption of a policy of reconciliation appears finally to be bearing fruit.

Six years ago, Kim Il-Sung had agreed to meet his southern counterpart for the first time.


Statue of Kim il-Sung
Soviet-backed Kim il-Sung became President in 1972
But he died of a heart attack just days before the summit was due to take place, and North-South relations went back into the deep freeze.

Kim Jong-Il now appears to be picking up where his father left off.

The United States, Japan and China have welcomed developments, but even good news in north-east Asia carries with it apprehensions for the future.

Japanese leaders have long worried that a more united Korea would be aggressively nationalistic and could eventually turn its hostility outwards across the sea of Japan.

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See also:

15 Dec 97 | Korean elections 97
South Korea: A political history
13 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: The trouble with North Korea
04 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea seeks closer ties with Japan
09 Sep 98 | Korea at 50
Where famine stalks the land
30 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Trilateral talks on North Korea
09 Sep 98 | Korea at 50
North Korea: a political history
10 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas to hold first summit
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