Letters to the Editor. The Korean peninsula

I would like to set the record straight on a few erroneous statements made by Gregory Henderson on the Korean armistice (``The armistice with no peace,'' July 30). He points out that the Korean armistice agreement was signed by American, Chinese, and North Korean generals. No South Korean ever signed. The agreement, a military armistice, was signed by the confronting military commanders, not by their respective governments. The American general was a representative of the joint United Nations forces.

He asserted that no one who visits North Korea today can credit it with the ability to launch a successful attack on South Korea. Paul Wolfowitz, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific recently emphasized ``that we face in Korea one of the most potentially severe imbalances in military power anywhere in the world . . . the North has perhaps the largest commando force, designed for insertion behind the lines in time of war.''

Henderson also claimed that the lack of direct US contact with North Korea is frustrating the needed transition to a more ``permanent peace'' in the Korean peninsula. Yet the tension in Korea emanates from North Korea's intransigent policy direction of communizing South Korea, even by force.

He raised the old myth that the present command relationship results in a US overlordship. The relationship derives from the United Nations resolution of 1950 and the security pact between the two countries, just as NATO command arrangements derive from the treaty between the Allied countries of the North Atlantic.

His allusion to the Kwangju incident as a democratic demonstration is distorting historical facts: The aftermath of the assassination of the late President Park Chung Hee was an outright riot. Korean troops were sent to Kwangju in response to dissidents who took almost 2,000 firearms and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition from the local armory.

Current dialogue between the South and North is vital for reducing tension and cultivating confidence. Hopefully, it will be the first step to peaceful unification of the two separated parts of Korea. Americans must not try to hinder these fragile beginnings by advocating US-North Korean direct contact until the North Koreans prove their sincerity in inter-Korean affairs. Young Mo Ahn Embassy of Korea Press Attach'e Washington

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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