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North Korea Says Moon Must Be Released as Condition for Talks

July 6, 1989

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) _ A senior government official said Thursday that stalled talks with South Korea cannot resume unless Seoul frees a dissident clergyman who was jailed for visiting North Korea.

″The South Korean authorities must release the Rev. Moon Ik-hwan,″ Chon Kum Chol, vice chairman of the Commission for the Reunification of the Fatherland, said at a news conference. ″If he is released, all the talks will be resumed between the North and the South.″

Chon also said future talks could be jeopardized if South Korea arrests Im Su-kyong, a 20-year-old student who also defied a Seoul ban on travel to North Korea to attend an international youth festival.

He said that if Miss Im, like Moon, is arrested upon her return, ″it will b will be a great challenge and we will regard it as a great obstacle to North-South dialogue.″

Moon, a leading critic of the South Korea government of President Roh Tae- woo, was detained after a visit to North Korea in March in which he held lengthy talks with North Korean President Kim Il Sung on possible Korean reunification.

Chon said the South Korean National Security Law, which bans unauthorized trips to North Korea, is ″the worst evil law.″

The two nations, divided since 1945, resumed direct talks last fall, with seven meetings of lawmakers discussing steps toward a non-aggression pact and other tension-easing measures.

Talks also were held early this year on preparing for a meeting of the two nations’ prime ministers and on organizing a joint team for the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing.

But North Korea suspended the parliamentary talks in February to protest the annual U.S.-South Korean ″Team Spirit″ military maneuvers, and the other talks were called off in April after Moon’s arrest.

Chon accused the South of ″raising a frantic anti-communist, anti-North clamor″ after the Moon trip and said the Roh government had made no proposals for reunification.

″Confrontation between the North and the South is now quite acute,″ he said.

Chon said North Korea had proposed Red Cross talks on Aug. 15 on reuniting divided families. He did not list the Red Cross talks, last held in 1985, among the dialogues that will be affected by the Moon case.

Chon also indicated that North Korea would be willing to hold meaningful talks with the United States if the joint military maneuvers are suspended.

″Everything depends on the United States,″ he said. ″If they show a change in attitude, we may be willing to reciprocate.″

North Korea says the presence of 43,000 U.S. troops in South Korea is the main obstacle to easing tensions. It has proposed a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops by 1991, to be accompanied by a reduction of both North and South Korean forces.

Update hourly