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Gov't should not repeat ‘mistakes of the past’

Posted January. 06, 2018 07:35,   

Updated January. 06, 2018 08:10


South and North Korea are resuming talks in 25 months since they had deputy minister-level talks in December 2015 as the North accepted Friday the South’s offer to hold high-level inter-Korean talks on next Tuesday. The two Koreas came to an agreement for bilateral talks four days after Kim Jong Un expressed his willingness to send athletes to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics during his New Year’s speech. It is meaningful for the two Koreas to lay the groundwork for peace on the Korean Peninsula, where tensions have reached tipping point ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The leaders of South Korea and the United States talked on the phone Thursday and agreed to delay joint military drills until after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, opening the way for the two Koreas to resume talks. U.S. President Donald Trump’s firm and strong stance against North Korea has helped resuming talks with North Korea and inter-Korean dialogue will only contribute to resolving the nuclear crisis with North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said. There have been concerns from Washington and its public about the resumption of inter-Korean talks, putting a burden on the South Korean government to bring about a resolution to the nuclear crisis with North Korea.

“We will be able to discuss issues such as reunions for families separated by the Korean War and military talks only after the issue of the North’s participation in the PyeongChang Olympics is finalized,” a high-ranking Cheong Wa Dae official talked on the agenda of the dialogue. “Other issues can be discussed only if the Olympic participation issue works out well.” This means the Korean government will not rush to make progress in improving inter-Korean relations and put all agendas on the table at once. North Korea may bring up issues aside from the Olympics such as suspension of military exercises as it sent Friday a telephone notice that chose “improving inter-Korean relations” as one of the agendas for the dialogue.

The ball is in North Korea’s court now. The reclusive regime should not sabotage the dialogue by demanding any rewards in return for participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. A delay of KOR-US joint military exercises is a first in 26 years since the signing of the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement in 1992. North Korea should not forget that South Korea and the United States has made a huge concession to bring peace on the Korean Peninsula. If the North carries out another provocation before the Olympics, it will be back to square one. The South Korean government would have to make sure that the delay of joint military drills is an “exceptional one-off measure” if the North absurdly demanded permanent suspension of KOR-US joint military exercises.

The inter-Korean talks this time will be held at a critical period where North Korea is at the last stage of developing inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM). The White House said in its statement that Moon and Trump “agreed to continue the campaign of maximum pressure against North Korea and to not repeat mistakes of the past.” The term “mistakes of the past” was not included in Cheong Wa Dae’s statement. It is clear that the mistakes of the past refer to the appeasement policies toward North Korea that only earned the reclusive regime time to develop nuclear weapons. Now we cannot afford to repeat “the mistakes of the past.”