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US Calls on North Korea For Direct Talks to Lessen Tensions

April 4, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Reagan administration called on North Korea Friday for talks to decrease long-standing tensions between the northern and southern governments on the divided peninsula, and to urge North Korea to attend the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

″Both the United States and our Republic of Korea allies are interested in reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula through direct talks between North and South and a successful Olympics,″ said State Department spokesman Charles Redman.

The State Department announced early last month it was dropping a ban against U.S. diplomats having contacts with North Korean officials, including those they might meet at international conferences.

Under the new guidelines, the American diplomats will be allowed to initiate discussions with North Koreans in such settings. The United States does not recognize the government of North Korea and there is no U.S. embassy in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

″As we have said many times before, our recent change in contact guidance is a step intended to reduce those tensions. We have also said that we hope that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will join in this process and respond with its own concerted steps to reduce tensions,″ Redman said.

″It is our hope that this process will be a continuing one. We are prepared to do our part as it moves forward.″

Asked what offers the United States might make in the future, Redman said, ″I am not going to speculate with you on what else we might do. The ball is in Pyongyang’s court, and they understand that.″

Redman was responding to questions about reports published in South Korea that the United States might offer to allow limited U.S. trade if North Korea takes steps to lessen tensions.

The Washington Post, quoting unidentified State Department officials in its Saturday edition, said a lifting of the near-total ban on trade with North Korea, especially to permit sales of U.S. foods and medicine, has been mentioned to Pyongyang.

The Post said other possible actions, which the administration has considered but not presented to North Korea, include modifications in the annual U.S.-South Korean ″Team Spirit″ military exercises and acceptance of ″confidence-building measures″ along the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

Also under review is approval of visas for North Koreans to visit the United States and withdrawal of U.S. opposition to North Korean participation in some international organizations, the newspaper said.

Last month, Secretary of State George P. Shultz urged South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan to take a close look at a letter from North Korea calling for the reopening of talks between the two.

Shultz also raised the issue in meetings with leaders in China and Japan, ″and they agreed that it would a good thing for relations between the two Koreas to improve,″ said a U.S. official, who requested anonymity.

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