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[Editorial] NK Urges Unity Then Threatens Civilian Flights

[Editorial] NK Urges Unity Then Threatens Civilian Flights

Posted March. 07, 2009 07:44,   


Labeling the annual Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercise of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command as a drill for an attack, North Korea`s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said, “We cannot ensure the safety of South Korean civilian flights crossing our airspace in the East Sea during a joint war drill.” Pyongyang in essence hinted at a possible attack on civilian flights flying over the East Sea, on top of its earlier threat to cross the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea.

The exercise aims to ensure South Korea’s security in the event of a North Korean attack. Pyongyang has blasted the drill all of sudden to contain Seoul and communicate only with Washington by increasing tension through far-reaching pressure on the South. The move effectively demonstrates yet again the dual face of the Kim Jong Il government, which has repeatedly urged cooperation between the Korean people.

North Korea, which joined the International Civil Aviation Organization in 1977, opened its airspace to international carriers, including those of South Korea, in 1998. The North charges 685 euros (870 U.S. dollars) per B747 flight when foreign airliners fly over its airspace.

Pyongyang is getting increasingly nervous, as Washington shows no change in its stance against the North’s nuclear program even after the inauguration of the Obama administration. The North is striving to open a channel for bilateral talks with the U.S. by attracting Washington’s attention. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who visited South Korea last month, emphasized the solidity of the South Korea-U.S. alliance. She made it clear that the North’s strategy to contain the South and talk only with the U.S. will prove futile.

It is time for the North to give up its brinkmanship approach. To threaten the safety of civilian flights is a violation of international law that will result in international sanctions. Seoul and Washington must increase their policy coordination in times like this. Today’s visit by the new U.S. envoy for North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, is also an opportunity for the two allies to share understanding about the North’s nuclear program and increase their collaboration against the North’s aggression. The only way for Pyongyang to maintain its regime and survive is to humbly accept repeated calls for dialogue from Unification Minister Hyun In-taek and President Lee Myung-bak.