POWELL hopes to advance Korean peace talks on his first visit as secretary of state

Friday, July 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ On his first visit to Seoul as secretary of state, Colin Powell said Friday there are many avenues to advance peace talks between North and South Korea.

``There are opportunities with the North that we couldn't have dreamed of 25 to 30 years ago,'' Powell said before meeting with top South Korean leaders. ``We have to make sure we try and seize those opportunities.''

Powell arrived in South Korea after a flight from Hanoi, Vietnam, where he attended an Asian regional security forum.

He was meeting in Seoul with President Kim Dae-jung and Foreign Minister Han Seung-soo before leaving early Saturday for Beijing. The South Koreans are eager to make the most of a reconciliation process with North Korea but the talks stalled after the election of President Bush.

In central Seoul some 300 anti-American protesters chanting ``Stop the Star Wars madness!'' rallied against the United States for pursuing a high-tech missile defense system that they say has disrupted relations between the two Koreas.

``Colin Powell, you are not welcome to South Korea,'' read one placard.

In another protest, a half-dozen anti-U.S. demonstrators scuffled with police outside the U.S. embassy. They were demanding the withdrawal of the 37,000 Americans stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against North Korea.

Powell, before he left Vietnam, said the United States was prepared to ``meet any time and any place'' and have an open agenda once North Korea decides to resume security negotiations.

In early June, Bush ordered his national security team to resume talks with North Korea that were begun by the Clinton administration. Bush wants to expand the focus beyond Pyongyang's missile program to include its large conventional force deployed near the border with South Korea.

North Korea has not officially responded to Bush's proposals but its media has criticized them.

Angered by what it felt was a tougher U.S. policy, North Korea cut off all official contacts with South Korea this year, stalling a reconciliation process that began last year with a historic summit.

Seoul officials said topics of their discussions with Powell would include North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's train trip to Moscow, which began Thursday.

Russian news reports said the 59-year-old Kim was expected to arrive on Aug. 4 for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.