The South Korean military tightened its ring around embattled Kwangju today but at the same time offered new compromises to make peace with the citizens who occupied the city after four days of violent protests against martial law.
Informed sources said the martial law command flew two brigades of troops into the perimeter of the city and tightened roadblocks.
They also said that although the government hoped to settle the crisis peacefully it was prepared to forcefully subdue several hundred dissidents still believed to be armed for resistance.
The military continued to insist that the citizen rebels return some 4,000 weapons seized during combat early this week. About 3,000 have been surrendered inside the city but are under the control of students, and the military claims that only 500 have been handed over to martial law authorities. m
By late this evening, three military-imposed deadlines for the return of weapons had passed without any attack being made and sources inside the city said that a tense peace was being observed.
The southwestern city erupted into violence last Sunday when paratroopers violently suppressed a student demonstration against South Korea's new rigid martial law edicts and three days of fighting broke out before government troops pulled out to the suburbs and nearby points.
According to reliable sources here, the military was prepared for the possibility of compromise but was equally ready for a renewed occupation. Tired martial law forces were shifted today and fresh troops place on the city's border.
The two brigades that were flown in could include anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 troops. Their movement followed a decision by U.S. Gen John A. Wickham to release Korean troops assigned to the join U.S-Korean command so that they could be used for riot duty.
Sources also said the military today offered new compromises that seemed to meet some of the demands of a citizens' committee in Kwangju.One of them was a promise that troops will not retaliate against citizens who forced the military out and another was that troops would not forcibly enter the city during a period in which a settlement is being negotiated.
The sources also said military leaders have agreed to acknowledge in some form that martial law forced had overreacted against the student demonstrations that spawned the turmoil. All three of those reported concessions were among the demands issued by the citizens' group in Kwangju.
The South Korean Cabinet announced last night that families of the dead and wounded would be compensated and that emergency supplies of food and medicine would be distributed. Both are in short supply inside the city.
The sources also said that instructions were given to the South Korean news media to refrain from describing the citizens as "rioters" or "rebels," descriptions that had provoked anger in the city.
Nevertheless, it was known that high-level military leaders were preparing plans to seize an estimated 200 to 300 dissident leaders who they asserted were likely to start guerrilla activities near Kawangju even if a settlement is reached.