North Korea seems eager to present an image of greater flexibility but the lastest pronouncements from Pyong yang offer no new framework for peace talks leading toward unification of the two Korean nations, analysts here have concluded.
Diplomats who follow trends in North Korea believe its leaders are adhering to their familiar position as closely as ever and that there is nothing substantively new in their propositions for unification with the South.
Their rhetoric is a little milder, their condemnations of U.S. "imperialism" and noncommunist South Korea a bit less strident, the analysts agree, but their terms for peace talks appear to be unchanged.
These observers have been analyzing a speech by North Korean President Kim II Sung two weeks ago, which was described in much of the Asan press as more flexible in tone than most of his declarations.
They have found no practical change on the issue of holding direct talks with the South, and North Korean sources deny that a somewhat ambiguous passage in his speech could mean a new readiness for such talks.
The speech on Sept.9 commemorating the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had attracted considerable world-wide attention because of its stress on a "peaceful" solution to the problem of reunification and its emphasis on a dialogue involving both the United States and South Korea.
Diplomatic analysts now say, however, that Kim was adhering to his familiar position that reunification must begin with direct talks with the United States without South Korea's presence. The United States repeatedly has refused to consider such bilateral discussions.
In a passage that aroused interest at first, Kim said:
"The government of the republic is making every sincere effort to bring about a dialogue for the peaceful settlement of the erunification question and keeps an open door for dialogue at all time.
"We leave the door open for a conversation with the United States and with the South Korean authorities and political parties, too,"
The passage raised a question as to whether Kim was agreeing to three-way talks with the United States and South Korea. The consensus of informed diplomats here now is that he was merely reasserting, more ambiguously than usual, his insistence on bilateral talks, beginning with the United States.
A North Korean source familiar with his government's current line described as "nonsense" tha notion that gestions of bilateral talks with North Kim was settling for three-way talks, including South Korea.
"If the United States insists on the presence of South Korea, it means that South Korea is is not an independent state but is still a puppet," he said. North Korean propaganda routinely refers to the South Korean government of President Park Chung Hee as a "puppet clique" directed by American imperialists.
The source said that Kim's phrasing anticipated two sets of bilateral talks, first with the United States and then with South Korea.
The United States rejects all sug-Korea, insisting that unification of the divided peninsula should be discussed between the two nations, which face each other over a heavily armed border. Any hint of direct U.S. North Korean negotiations angers South Korea and the issue is especially sensitive now as the American troop withdrawal approaches.
The official American response to Kim's speech was a brief statement means for reducing tensions on the peninsula which could serve as the basis for eventually reunification."
Discussions between North and South Korea were broken off in 1972 and there has been little public contact between the two countries since reemphasizing its position that direct North-South talks would be the "best then. Negotiations sponsored by the Red Cross for the purpose of reuniting families divided by war collapsed last spring.
A proposal by Park Chung Hee for opening discussions on economic cooperation was speedily rejected by the North Korean government last summer and denounced by Kim in his speech on Sept.9 as "nothing but a clumsy trick."
Japanese diplomats also noted a speech delivered the day before by the North Korean ambassador to China, Chon Myong Su. Speaking at a reception in the Chinese capital, he denounced Park by name and accused the South Korean government and the United States of conspiring to perpetuate the division of Korea.
In his speech, Kim did not refer to Park by name, although his government propaganda organs continue to refer to the South Korean government as the "the Park clique."
South Korean officials here refused to discuss the Communist leader's remarks.