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[Editorial] President Roh Should Not Take Risks in Pyongyang

[Editorial] President Roh Should Not Take Risks in Pyongyang

Posted September. 14, 2007 03:08,   


In the run-up to the summit talks between South and North Korea, President Roh Moo-hyun and his aides are unveiling their genuine intentions. President Roh clearly said that peace on the Korean peninsula is the main agenda, and Moon Jae-in, the chief of staff, said, “There is a likelihood that the Northern Limit Line (NLL) issue can be discussed.” They do not seem to be listening to concerned voices.

No one is against bringing peace to the Korean peninsula. The problem is how. The biggest obstacle is North Korea’s nuclear issue. That is why U.S. president George W. Bush proposed the end of the oldest cold war on the condition of the North’s “verifiable disarmament” in last week’s Korea-U.S. summit meeting. President Roh agreed with him, but now he is saying, “Talking about the nuclear issue means having a fight with the North.”

The establishment of peace on the peninsula is not an agenda that a president with less than a five-month period can raise. To make it work, the 1953 ceasefire treaty should first be changed into a peace treaty. The related parties involved in the ceasefire treaty were America, China, North Korea and South Korea. It came into being after four rounds of four-way peace talks on the Korean peninsula held between December 1997 and February 1999. Some suggest ‘2+2’ talks initiated by South and North Korea and guaranteed by the U.S. and China as an alternative solution. However, it is not certain whether things will proceed this way because the interests of Japan and Russia are involved as well.

President Roh’s peace scheme is different from that of the Ministry of Foreign and Trade, the responsible government agency. Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said, “Peace does not come all at once. A sudden declaration of the end of the Korean War would only bring chaos to the current condition that is devoid of peace.” His worries are understandable given North Korea’s possible demands for the withdrawal of the U.S. forces stationed in Korea and the breakup of the Korea-U.S. alliance.

Moon’s mention of the NLL issue is no different from asking the North to take the lead on the issue. What is the reason behind asking to fix the substantial maritime boundary over a half a century to the North’s advantage?

As he said to the public on the Liberation Day, President Roh should not attempt to bite off more than he can chew. The next administration will continue the effort to seek talks between the two Koreas and bring peace to the peninsula. What he has to do at the meeting with the North is to reduce the public’s burden and save the chances for further talks down the road.