[EDITORIALS]Pyeongyang's new attitude

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[EDITORIALS]Pyeongyang's new attitude

North Korea of late appears to be engaged in a major policy shift of reforming its economy at home while improving relations externally with South Korea, the United States and Japan. The North's attempt to improve external relations is all the more noteworthy since there are signs that it may also be introducing market principles to its economy. If the twin policy shift is a result of a decision by the country's top decision-makers, North Korea may be headed for a bold overhaul.

In relation to the naval clash on the West Sea, North Korea admitted, albeit indirectly, its responsibility and issued an apology. At the same time, the North agreed to hold ministerial-level talks with Japan and said the Japanese Red Army faction members detained through the Yodo incident could return home. Moreover, the oft-belligerent country said it would receive any U.S. envoy regardless of his or her rank.

One could not imagine North Korea taking these positions just a short while ago. Some analysts see these policy changes positively and say they resulted from North Korea's realization that opening the country is inevitable for shoring up its tattered economy. Others, however, see the changes as a temporary, tactical gestures aimed at gaining economic support from South Korea, the United States and Japan to prevent its economy from collapsing.

If the latter is true, it would not be easy for North Korea to get economic aid from the West. The outside world by now is quite familiar with the North's sly tactics, and the United States is particularly so. Accordingly, if North Korea truly intends to improve its external relations in order to resuscitate its economy, it should show a more courageous and forthcoming attitude. It should no longer exhibit arrogance when it agrees to hold talks with foreign countries as if it was doing those country huge favors. Instead of bluffing and last-minute countermeasures, North Korea should do itself a favor and try to reap as many benefits as it can from any negotiations it holds with other countries.

How the North's foreign minister, Paek Nam-sun, deals with representatives from South Korea and the United States at the ASEAN Regional Forum that convenes today will reveal North Korea's true stance and intentions. North Korea should radically alter its policies toward the outside world.

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