Peace on the Korean peninsula could depend on how badly food shortages pinch the communist North, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright suggested Saturday.
Opening a three-country Asian trip, she offered steadfast support to South Korea, an anxious ally, and saluted 500 American soldiers stationed along the U.N. buffer between north and south.
Speaking to troops in the Camp Bonifas commissary, Albright said how far peace talks beginning next month go “basically depends on how much the North Koreans are hurting and whether they are willing to realize that a peaceful solution to this division is the best way to go.”
The secretary peered through naval glasses at North Korean soldiers on the other side of the 2-1/2-mile U.N. Demilitarized Zone. The DMZ resulted from the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.
North Korea, wracked by famine, agreed last week to hold preliminary talks with American diplomats in New York next month after the United States and South Korea pledged $16 million in food assistance.
The South Korean foreign minister, Yoo Chong-ha, stressed the assistance was not an inducement to North Korea to join the peace efforts.
A senior U.S. official, insisting on anonymity, said Albright’s and Yoo’s statements were not conflicting. “She was referring to the rapidly deteriorating situation in the North, and the famine is just a part of it,” he said.