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[Editorial] Inter-Korean Talks Should Lead to North’s Return to Six-Party Talks

[Editorial] Inter-Korean Talks Should Lead to North’s Return to Six-Party Talks

Posted May. 15, 2005 23:23,   


North and South Korea are holding a deputy ministerial meeting today and tomorrow. Expectations are high because a meeting between the two has been convened for the first time in 10 months, and tensions are heightened around the North Korean nuclear issue.

North Korea prefers discussing measures to put the inter-Korean relationship back on track, including South-to-North fertilizer support. However, considering the backdrop of the meeting, the nuclear issue cannot be excluded from the topic of discussion. I hope the officials of both sides find a way to resolve the problem.

Sending fertilizer to the North should not be the only result the meeting reaches. It is true North Korea, entering the farming season, desperately needs fertilizer, and South Korea agreed to send support at the request of the North. But the North Korean nuclear issue is more urgent than fertilizer support. Only when the nuclear issue is resolved can South-to-North economic support and other parts of the inter-Korean relations be put back on track.

South Korea should urge the North to return to the six-party talks. South Korea is the only party nation that the North can freely communicate with, considering the current tension between North Korea and the U.S. The South should not back down and be sensitive to the North’s reaction. After all, hadn’t the South gone out of its way to respect North Korea despite harsh criticism of patronizing the North for opportunities like this to talk straightforwardly to the North?

For its part, North Korea should not even think about disrupting ROK-U.S. relations. North Korea called on an inter-Korean dialogue based on “brotherly co-existence” whenever it faced conflicts with the U.S. The North intended to break South Korea-U.S. ties and flaunt images of engaging in a dialogue by creating a perception to the effect that North and South Korea can solve the problems on their own, and that the U.S. is the problem.

Such tactics will not work anymore. If the current situation continues, the North will have to make a choice between the six-party talks and sanctions. If North Korea truly wants “brotherly co-existence,” it would be wise to seek ways to return to the talks during the inter-Korean meeting. Only then can the inter-Korean relations normalize.

The two Koreas have much to do. A ministerial meeting would provide an opportunity to discuss economic support to North Korea, including food support. I urge Kim Jong Il to make a decision, as the 5th anniversary of the North and South summit on June 15 approaches.