N Korea Warned Guests To Cooperate
WASHINGTON (AP) _ North Korean authorities threatened to block further cooperation on Korean War POW-MIA issues if visiting Americans reported negatively on their trip there last week, group members said Monday.
Pat Dunton, president of the Korean War-Cold War Family Association of the Missing, said the U.S. delegation’s North Korean hosts sidestepped or ignored questions she and the other Americans raised about accounting for missing Americans.
``There were no discussions,″ she said.
Equally troubling, the North Koreans explicitly and repeatedly warned that negative public comments about the five-day visit would result in a shutoff of information and cooperation on accounting for Korean War-era servicemen, she said.
``I was told five times a day: `We will watch the American press to see what you say for the next three weeks,‴ she said. ```What you say to the media is going to determine whether‴ North Korea cooperates on MIA and POW issues.
Among those who stated this was Ambassador Kim Byong Hong, the head North Korean official on matters related to Korean War MIA-POW issues, Mrs. Dunton said.
Other members of the U.S. delegation, including a Defense Department official, confirmed that the North Koreans warned against negative publicity. Ken Steadman, head of the Washington office of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said in an interview that he did not feel intimidated by the North Koreans’ threat.
``I did not feel put off by that,″ he said. ``I kind of expected that.″
Mrs. Dunton and representatives of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Chosin Few veterans group were invited to observe a joint U.S.-North Korean excavation effort to recover human remains from a Korean War battlefield. After they left the site, in northwestern Unsan County, the diggers found one set of remains believed to be those of a U.S. soldier.
Steadman said he was encouraged that the North Koreans at least indicated they wanted to increase the number of joint recovery operations in coming years.
``I was encouraged by that,″ he said.
One of the U.S. visitors’ main priorities was to ask for access to at least four Americans living in North Korea who defected from the U.S. Army in South Korea in the 1960s. The hope is that the defectors would have information about American servicemen held there against their will, now or in the past.
Mrs. Dunton said the request fell on deaf ears.
``They wouldn’t even discuss it,″ she said in an interview from her Coppell, Texas, home. Her father, Air Force Lt. James S. Wilson Jr. of Memphis, Tenn., was shot down over North Korea in a B-29 in April 1951 and is still unaccounted for.
Greg Man, a Defense Department official who accompanied the Americans on their visit, said in an interview Monday that the North Koreans agreed to pass along written questions from the Americans to the defectors. The Clinton administration has been holding out for face-to-face interviews with the defectors.