[EDITORIALS]Pyeongyang reverts to form

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[EDITORIALS]Pyeongyang reverts to form

North Korea surprised the world Friday by calling the June 29 border clash in the Yellow Sea a provocation plotted by the United States. The North, after expressing regrets and proposing inter-Korean minister-level talks on July 25, was able to plan for bilateral talks with Seoul, Tokyo and Washington. And now it has returned to the starting point as to who was responsible for the clash.

North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland released a report Thursday. Rejecting the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime demarcation line between the two Koreas, Pyeongyang said, "The recent naval clash was a premeditated provocation perpetrated by South Korean hawkish forces in line with Washington's North Korea policy," according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency. The North tried to buttress its argument by repeating news aired here by MBC television that South Korean fishing boats may have crossed the northern fishing limit line.

The North threatened that if the South persists in enforcing the NLL, war may break out. It also said the South is intruding in its waters in order to salvage a South Korean patrol boat that sank after the sea skirmish. The North is trying to enforce its own maritime military demarcation line in the Yellow Sea that it drew in 1999 and wants to use the issue in its negotiations with Washington. It also wants a counter in the ongoing working-level meetings and the planned ministerial talks to Seoul's demand for punishment of those responsible for the clash.

The North's arguments are absurd. Pyeongyang knows as well as anyone that Seoul and Washington will not tremble at its threats, scrap the NLL and cancel the salvage operation. The more the North blusters, the worse its situation and image become.

South Korean delegates in the working-level negotiations must leave the table immediately if the North continues with this nonsense. Only after we display some strong determination will the two Koreas be able to build a foundation for substantial peace talks.

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