June 28, 2005

Seoul looks to soften Cheney’s N. Korea views-paper

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's unification minister, whohad a rare meeting with North Korea's leader this month, willtry to convince Vice President Dick Cheney to soften his stancetoward the communist state, a newspaper said on Tuesday.

Chung Dong-young, who had a five-hour meeting with KimJong-il on June 17 in Pyongyang, will visit Washington fromWednesday, trying to soften up the views of hard-liner Cheney,the Chosun Ilbo reported.

Cheney recently described Kim as an "irresponsible leader"who "runs a police state," while the North's official mediacalled the U.S. vice president a "cruel monster andbloodthirsty beast."

A Unification Ministry official would not comment on thenewspaper report.

Chung, who will be in Washington until Saturday, isexpected to meet senior U.S. officials, but his schedule hasnot been fixed. Chung was hoping to meet Cheney, the officialsaid.

The newspaper cited government sources as saying a few kindwords from Cheney could help convince North Korea to return tostalled six-party talks to end its nuclear weapons programs inexchange for security guarantees and economic assistance.

"Vice President Cheney needs to say something reassuring toNorth Korea," the paper quoted a government official as saying.

South Korean officials have said they have been encouragedby comments President Bush made about Kim, when he called him"Mr. Kim Jong-il" and Chung feels Cheney could be the lasthurdle to clear, the paper said.

In his meeting with Kim Jong-il, Chung said the North'sleader told him Pyongyang could return to the talks as early asJuly if the United States met certain conditions, such astreating the communist state with "respect."

Washington responded by saying it saw nothing new in Kim'scomments and called on Pyongyang to set a date to return to thetalks that involve the two Koreas, the United States, China,Japan and Russia.