In Korean elections, conservatives' win boosts president
President Lee can lean on his new Assembly majority to pursue economic reforms and a tougher N. Korea policy.
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Mr. Hill, in Beijing, said he and Mr. Kim had made "definite progress" but still had "a lot of work to do" and had achieved no "major breakthrough." China's envoy, Wu Dawei, who has hosted six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, warned not to expect any movement for several months.Skip to next paragraph
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Those comments contradicted a North Korean spokesman quoted by Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency as saying Hill and Kim had formed a "declaration" in which North Korea would list its nuclear program in exchange for "political compensation." That term is was widely assumed to refer to removal from the US list of nations sponsoring terrorism and lifting of economic sanctions, as long demanded by North Korea.
Analysts believe Mr. Lee must now decide whether to support what is widely viewed here as a compromise on the original agreement, reached last year, in which North Korea was to itemize its nuclear program by the end of December.
Hill and Kim are believed to have discussed a formula under which North Korea acknowledges the truth of a secret memorandum that cites the existence of a program for developing warheads with enriched uranium. North Korea would also acknowledge a passage in the memorandum stating it had provided technology and aid for Syria's nuclear program – including a complex bombed by Israeli war planes last year.
"Apparently they've decided on an unofficial MOU [memorandum of understanding] between Washington and Pyongyang," says Lee Jong Min, professor of international relations at Yonsei University. "This is a tacit acknowledgement. They won't talk about it."
The deal, says Mr. Lee, calls for North Korea to "agree with what the Americans said" about the uranium program as well as the Syrian facility but not to say so publicly.
Lee predicts this sort of deal will meet with criticism among conservatives here as well as in the American Congress.
"There are so many ifs and buts," he says. "I don't think President Lee will go to Washington and tell President Bush this is horrible, but he has to get an assurance from the American side that the Americans will not do a deal before the end of the year" lest Bush rush into a decision for the sake of his legacy.
Lee promises huge economic rewards for North Korea, but has angered the North Korea by conditioning the vow on the North's completely dismantling its nuclear program and returning hundreds of fishermen and Korean War prisoners. He also promises to address human rights abuses in North Korea – an issue that North Korea denies and refuses to discuss.
Lee's assembly majority means he should have no problem getting the assembly to ratify a highly controversial free trade agreement with the US. He will need conservative support, moreover, to remove one of the biggest obstacles to acceptance of the agreement by the US Congress – barriers to the import of US beef. US officials have repeatedly warned South Korea the agreement has no chance in Congress if South Korea fails to remove the barriers.