Clinton warns North Korea about nuclear weapons President promotes S. Korean tourism

November 22, 1998|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

SEOUL, South Korea -- Illustrating the two-pronged U.S. approach toward Communist North Korea, President Clinton sent a stern warning to Pyongyang yesterday about a suspected nuclear site but also delivered a virtual commercial for new cruise boat tours from South Korea to the north.

Speaking at a news conference during a two-day visit to South Korea, Clinton and his host, President Kim Dae Jung, sent strong signals to North Korea that they want to increase its links to the outside world but will not tolerate efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

"We will not tolerate any possible attempt by North Korea to proliferate nuclear weapons, missiles and other weapons of mass destruction," Kim said.

In particular, the presidents criticized Pyongyang for preventing an inspection of a large cavern in North Korea that U.S. and South Korea officials suspect is an underground nuclear facility under construction.

As the news conference was drawing to a close, Clinton, without being asked, chimed in after Kim answered a question to stress the benefits to North Korea of re-engaging with the rest of the world.

Gesturing excitedly, Clinton talked about news footage he had seen after arriving in Seoul the night before that showed the first South Korean tourist cruise to the North since the peninsula was divided five decades ago.

"The picture was the tourist ship going into the North, right?" Clinton said. "To us, this was amazing, and it was a very beautiful picture.

"I ask the North Koreans to think about this," Clinton added. "Nothing could ever be put in that hole in the ground that would give the North Koreans as much advantage, as much power, as much wealth, as much happiness as more of those ships going up there full of people from here."

It was Clinton's enthusiasm for the tourism enterprise that best conveyed his conviction that Kim's "sunshine policy" of engaging North Korea holds the key to opening that closed society.

Kim, 72, a former dissident once jailed for advocating democracy, won the presidency a year ago. He is committed to '' increasing connections between the long-estranged neighbors on the Korean Peninsula.

Pub Date: 11/22/98

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