South Korean leader arrives in China for first state visit

September 28, 1992|By New York Times News Service

BEIJING -- President Roh Tae Woo of South Korea arrived in China yesterday for the first state visit between two one-time enemies, and he quickly made it clear that he hoped to use Beijing to help overcome the most bitter legacy of the Cold War in North Asia, the division of the Korean peninsula.

Mr. Roh landed here yesterday afternoon with an entourage of nearly 500 government officials, business leaders and journalists for what is regarded as a landmark in creating a new order in the region.

It was a day of powerful symbols, underscoring how swiftly the region's political fault lines were being reshaped by Asians themselves, without the West's mediating or guiding the process, as had been the case for most of the Cold War.

China and South Korea normalized relations just last month in what was a diplomatic coup for Seoul. The opening ended four decades of hostility that followed Beijing's intervention in the Korean War alongside the hard-line Communist government of North Korea.

The normalization capped a four-year South Korean diplomatic offensive to both isolate the Communist regime in rival North Korea and put pressure on it to begin serious negotiations on terms for reunification. Talks have dragged on intermittently for several years with no signs of a breakthrough.

Seoul opened relations with Moscow in 1990 and in September gained admission to the United Nations, at the same time as North Korea. The North Koreans had always insisted that only one of the two governments, its own, had the right to hold a U.N. seat.

Mr. Roh set out his agenda when he landed here yesterday.

"After the U.N. and Moscow, we now have reached Beijing, which is the last gate leading to Pyongyang," he said. "With this, we have become new friends of two nations neighboring on North Korea."

Besides relations with North Korea, business is also expected to occupy an important place when Mr. Roh meets with China's most senior leaders.

The two countries are expected to sign routine agreements establishing official trade and investment ties during the visit.

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