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It is premature to seek dialogue with N. Korea

Posted June. 16, 2017 07:16,   

Updated June. 16, 2017 07:34


In his message to mark the 17th anniversary of the historic inter-Korean summit in 2000, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday Seoul is willing to hold talks with North Korea if it stops further nuclear and missile provocations. "We will be able to comprehensively discuss complete dismantlement of North Korean nukes and the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, as well as normalization of North Korea-U.S. relations," he said. Although he did not specifically mentioned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Moon suggested that he is willing to discuss ways to honor and implement inter-Korean summit agreements reached on June 15, 2000, and October 4, 2007 as a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue. It would not be an exaggeration to view Moon’s offer as a declaration of the revival of the “sunshine policy” of engagement with Pyongyang.

In the June 15, 2000 joint declaration, the two Koreas agreed to “independently resolve” the reunification issue and recognize common grounds in their reunification proposals. It also called for holding reunions of families separated by the 1950-1953 Korean War and promoting bilateral economic, social and cultural exchanges. As the first inter-Korean summit agreement since the national division, the joint declaration made some improvements in the bilateral relations but subsequently served as the ground for Seoul’s unilateral aids to the North. In particular, the declaration’s call for establishing and implementing measures to achieve peaceful reunification based on basic order of liberal democracy caused controversies over possible violation of the Article 4 of the South Korean Constitution.

Although President Moon expressed regret that the change of government in the South led to failure to implement the inter-Korean agreements, the North considers inter-Korean talks as a means to buy time for its nuclear and missile development and find funding sources. On Wednesday, the North’s Committee for Peaceful Reunification put pressure on the Moon administration, urging Seoul to “not cling to reckless military provocations to defend what it calls the illegal and bogus de facto western sea border, known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL).” The offensive is linked with the controversies over whether former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said Seoul would give up the NLL during the 2002 inter-Korean summit. South Korea should not rush for inter-Korean dialogue despite Pyongyang’s obvious intention to demand Seoul’s repayment of past liabilities.

Pyongyang’s abandonment of its nuclear and missile programs must be the prerequisite for overcoming the armistice regime and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula. Seoul should think with a cool head about whether its plan to make both Washington and Pyongyang act simultaneously to normalize ties and achieve denuclearization, instead of demanding the North to act first, is based on overconfidence over its capabilities. Referring to Moon’s attempt to play a balancing role between the regional powers and convince North Korea to negotiate an entente, the Wall Street Journal commented, "This naïvete puts South Korea's security in peril.” At a time when the international community is making all-out efforts to sanction North Korea, Seoul could be ostracized if it goes as far as to resuming the suspended inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong. President Moon should face the harsh reality.