[EDITORIAL] Friendly Enemies?

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[EDITORIAL] Friendly Enemies?

North Korea again seems to be taking issue with the "main enemy" concept in South Korea's defense white paper. In the middle of working-level military talks to reconnect a severed railway line, the North suddenly announced that unless the concept of the North as the South's main enemy is deleted, there would be no defense ministers' talks. Going a step further, the North said that it would not agree to a protocol of joint regulations in the DMZ for the construction of the railroad and a parallel road which was concluded with difficulty at a recent working-level meeting.

North Korea has always demanded that the main enemy concept be retracted. Yet, it is hard to understand why the North suddenly put it forth as an excuse to postpone the defense ministers' talks after so much progress on the railroad talks.

The North and the South are militarily in a ceasefire. For the past 50 years, the South regarded the North as its main enemy, while the North considered the South an area to communize. The inter-Korean relationship has improved a great deal since last year, and although separated families have met, economic cooperation has advanced and the rail line is to be reconnected, in real terms military tension has not been reduced. Therefore, until a permanent peace treaty replaces the armistice, a tentative state as it is today will continue. For the same reason, the North is keeping the Workers' Party platform which demands "reunification with the southern half under communism." North Korea's unilateral postponement of the defense ministers' talks, where the reduction of military tension is to be discussed, will give a bad impression not only to South Koreans but also to other nations. In particular, we are concerned that this action might send a negative image to the new U.S. administration, which still thinks North Korea as a "rogue state."

Now that discussions abound in the South about how to define its relationship with the North, this issue will be actively debated in accordance with the advancement of inter-Korean relations. The North Korean authorities must clearly understand that when it puts off the ministers' talks by making an absurd issue and refusing to sign an agreement because of the reality on the peninsula, it will only feed uncertainty about North Korea and send its credibility plummeting.

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