[EDITORIALS] Real signs of detente

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[EDITORIALS] Real signs of detente

North Korea apologized Thursday for last month's border clash between the two Koreas' navies in the Yellow Sea; Pyeongyang proposed to have a working-level meeting early next month at Mount Geumgang in order to prepare for a seventh round of ministerial talks in Seoul. "We express our regret for the accidental armed clash in the West Sea, and the two Koreas should cooperate to prevent recurrence of similar incidents," the North said.

Opinion will be split in the South over whether this message should be regarded as an official apology. We see the North's message as an official admission by Pyeongyang, even if belated, of wrongdoing in the border clash.

The North must not repeat such armed provocations and to ensure that, the persons responsible for the naval battle must be punished. We also urge the two Koreas to hold military talks in order to prevent recurrences of such unfortunate incidents.

The South Korean government should remember that cooperative relations with Pyeongyang to build peace and security on the peninsula are the only way to achieve true reconciliation. With such a stance, the South should try at the forthcoming talks with the North to resolve military issues between the two Koreas that came to the surface after the June 29 naval clash.

If the South takes a lukewarm attitude and only focuses on aiding the North, Seoul will have difficulty in winning the people's support for its engagement policy toward the North.

We are paying special attention to the North's apology and the proposal of inter-Korean ministerial talks because of the North's recent moves to reform its economy. Consistent supplies of material and capital are a precondition for success in the North's experiment in economic reform.

The North cannot rely on anyone other than the South to supply those needs. The South should help the North to engineer a soft landing for the North Korean economy in order to prepare for peaceful national reunification; that will also benefit our national interest.

The South Korean government should be bold in making demands of the North when necessary; at the same time, Seoul should keep up its humanitarian aid to the North, especially food aid.
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