[EDITORIALS]An agenda for the North

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[EDITORIALS]An agenda for the North

It appears that some sort of conclusion will come out of the seventh North-South ministerial-level talks, which resumed Monday after nine months of vacuum. With the objective of creating an economic basis for the reform that it began last month, the North is reacting very mildly regarding the Yellow Sea naval skirmish. Pyeongyang seems to have concluded that restoring North-South relations to a better level under the Kim Dae-jung administration will be beneficial for its future relations with the next administration. That fits the Kim administration's desire to get some achievements under its belt before its term is up.

In this atmosphere, there are expected to be agreements on the Gyeongui rail connection, schedules for North-South military talks to discuss rail construction in the Demilitarized Zone, the timetable for the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Committee which will negotiate the delivery of 300,000 tons of rice aid to the North, and the reunion of separated family members during the Chuseok holidays next month. All those issues have previously been agreed but not implemented because of the North's capriciousness.

While the lack of sincerity by the North is the largest obstacle, the South's biggest problem is to find a way to make Pyeongyang live up to its words; it has to concentrate its efforts on providing arrangements to secure "practical gurantees" for implementation, not rely on the North's goodwill. One idea is to link the issues involving aid to the North to some of Seoul's issues like a permanent meeting place for separated families or a mail exchange system. The North's delegation said, in its arrival statement, that "a strong will to put the agreed matters into effect is necessary." The most urgent matters that the North must deal with are the execution of agreed projects, not just thinking up flashy expressions that could be just some kind words for their hosts. They must clarify their position on the Yellow Sea encounter; otherwise, it will be difficult for them to receive any sort of aid from the South, even after the recent floods caused more food shortages there.

Smooth progress in relations between the North and South will be the most significant factor in the North's efforts to establish an environment of international support for its economic reforms.
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