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Western Press Review: Southern Europe And Northeast Asia Command Attention

  • Don Hill

Prague, 25 October 2000 (RFE/RL) -- As the drama of the ouster of Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic fades, commentators in the West dig deeper into secondary issues -- second-level leaders, NATO's role, and justice for Milosevic. Substantial commentary also turns eastward to focus on North Korea and hopes for rapprochement there.


In France's daily Liberation, commentator Pierre Marcelle sees bringing Milosevic to trial as premature. He writes: "The still weak [new Yugoslav President] Vojislav Kostunica needs time to install his rule. The tense situation in Belgrade needs to calm down. A civil peace has to be installed, and relations between the republics that form the Yugoslavia federation need to be normalized." He adds: "We need to be patient and avoid adding fuel to the flame because [even we French] needed time to digest some episodes of our own history -- for example, collaboration [with the Nazis] and colonialism -- and should not demand from Serbia immediate repentance."


The Los Angeles Times publishes a commentary by Evelyn Farkas, international affairs professor at the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College. Farkas says that U.S. presidential candidate George Bush promises what he knows he can't deliver when he says the U.S. military will back out of the Balkans.

She writes: "[Bush] assiduously and successfully is courting military personnel, active and retired, by making implicit promises that cannot be kept." She says the first promise is that President Bush would increase the defense budget and address current military concerns, and the second is that U.S. troops no longer would be asked to conduct peace operations."

Farkas comments: "A Republican president would no more be able to withdraw U.S. forces from the Balkans than a Democratic one. The United States cannot ignore its interests and allies in Europe. The military, diplomatic and potential economic costs would be unbearable. Weeks into a Republican administration, the military leadership will find its hope dashed."


In Die Welt, German commentator Katja Ridderbusch profiles Serbia's Goran Svilanovic, the leader of the republic's Citizens' Alliance. Writing from Belgrade, she says that, at 36 years of age, Svilanovic "is the youngest of Serbia's new breed of democrats." Ridderbusch says further: "Goran Svilanovic is tired. Tired of the debates and fed up with the political games. 'The trench warfare with the Socialists of ex-President Milosevic disgusts me,' he says. "I want to see an end. The people all want to see an end.' The Socialists' tactic is to disrupt, to cause chaos to show that the new rulers are not capable of governing, he says." Ridderbusch says Slivanovic's favors Milosevic being brought to justice. Svilanovic believes "that Serbia should cooperate with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. This means opening all doors to its representatives and giving them free rein to investigate whatever they want to investigate. At the same time, Svilanovic suggests setting up a commission to look into the crimes of the previous regime. Finally, [he believes,] Milosevic should be brought to trial in Serbia itself, naturally in agreement with the prosecutors in The Hague."


In the Frankfurter Rundschau, Stephan Israel describes another Serbian leader little known to outsiders, Nenad Canak, as "the eloquent opposition leader from the province of Vojvodina." Israel writes of Canak: "Now that the battle has been won, he says he will only believe in the transformation once indicted war criminal Milosevic is sitting in a jail cell at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague."

Writing from Vojvodina's capital Novy Sad, Israel also says: "According to Canak, Vojislav Kostunica was merely the instrument used to defeat Milosevic. And he thinks the Democratic Opposition of Serbia is nothing more than a collection of feudal lords who got together and organized a coup against the central government."


French commentator Robert Belleret, writing in Le Monde, describes new Yugoslav President Kostunica as a "stern intellectual, reserved, fiercely nationalistic [who] is first of all an advocate of legitimacy, a European, a francophile and admirer of General [Charles] de Gaulle."

Belleret says that one thing Kostunica certainly is not is an opportunist. He writes: "During his 10-year political career, the uncompromising Kostunica preferred isolation to compromising alliances -- such as one with Vuk Draskovic, the unpredictable and populist leader of the Serbian Renewal group. [As a result,] even during the anti-Milosevic demonstrations of 1996 and 1997, Kostunica risked being left out of the [political] scene."

The writer says that Kostunica, while a nationalist, is also convinced of the value of the rule of law. Le Monde's commentator adds: "Kostunica considers as his urgent task the laying of a the foundation for a new [Yugoslav] constitution."


On North Korea, the British daily Financial Times says in an editorial that a U.S. rapprochement with Pyongyang could inhibit a newly-elected president, especially in regard to a possible National Missile Defense, or NMD. The paper writes: "The sight of Madeleine Albright, the U.S. secretary of state, in Pyongyang this week, chatting away with Kim Jong Il, North Korea's 'dear leader,' would have been unthinkable only a few months ago. Equally remarkable could be the effect of this rapprochement on the decision the next U.S. president will make on plans for a national missile defense. For North Korea has been the immediate rationale for this controversial anti-missile project, which President Bill Clinton last month decided to leave to his successor to finalize."

The editorial also says: "The United States so far has refused to pay for an end to [North Korean] rocket production, but Mrs. Albright has apparently been ready to discuss Mr. Kim's suggestion that the U.S. launch his country's satellites into space, thereby making it unnecessary for North Korea to develop launch rockets of the kind it [has] fired over Japan."

One trouble, says the Financial Times, is that Kim broached this idea earlier this year, only to dismiss it later as a joke. The newspaper concludes: "If the 'dear leader' dispenses with his jokes and embarks on a serious rapprochement with the United States, he could make it harder politically for the next president to go ahead with NMD."


The New York Times says in an editorial: "Albright's visit to North Korea this week illustrated the opportunities and risks of defrosting relations with the world's last Stalinist state." The editorial says Albright was received graciously, but warns that President Clinton should move carefully before agreeing himself to visit North Korea.

The newspaper writes: "For the past six years, North Korea has frozen its nuclear weapons development program in exchange for American and international help in constructing two civilian power reactors. For more than a year, the North has abided by an agreement to suspend long-range missile testing. More recently, it offered to abandon its missile development effort in exchange for foreign help in launching space satellites. Specialists from both countries will soon meet to discuss specific steps North Korea can take to limit its missile program."

The New York Times says Clinton should go ahead with a visit to Korea only if is he is assured in advance of concrete results. The editorial concludes: "Dealing with North Korea remains full of uncertainties, as [Secretary] Albright discovered when Kim Jong Il brought her to an elaborate tribute to the achievements and military strength of North Korean Communism." It concludes: "That is not the kind of spectacle Mr. Clinton should attend if he travels to Pyongyang."

(RFE/RL's Aurora Gallego contributed to this review.)