American, Japanese and South Korean officials will meet in Tokyo next week to try to find a way to get North Korea to attend peace talks.
The Foreign Ministry said Friday that Wednesday’s meeting also will address severe food shortages in communist North Korea, which U.N. relief workers say is on the brink of catastrophic famine.
North Korea backed away last month from a U.S.-South Korean proposal for peace talks to permanently end the 1950-53 Korean War. It is demanding large shipments of food aid and improved ties with Washington as a precondition.
However, President Clinton said the West would provide large-scale food aid and help North Korea rebuild its crumbling economy only after it entered peace talks.
South Korea fears that aid before peace talks would only encourage North Korea to maintain its militaristic approach. Despite its economic difficulties, North Korea keeps most of its 1.2 million-strong military, the world’s fifth largest, close to the border with South Korea.