[EDITORIALS]Time for North to Change Attitude

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[EDITORIALS]Time for North to Change Attitude

An indeterminate cooling off period is apparently the next step in wake of the breakdown in ministerial dialogue between the two Koreas that began on Friday. The North took issue throughout the meting with the heightened security measures taken by the South in response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States and insisted on holding the next round of ministerial meetings and the economic cooperation council meeting at Mount Geumgang.

North Korea put the blame for the failed talks on the South during a state broadcast Wednesday, saying Seoul is driving inter-Korea relations to confrontation, "betraying the spirit of the North-South Joint Declaration" made in June last year between President Kim Dae-jung and North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il. The North should refrain from these types of gestures. The North would be well advised to take lessons from the failed dialogue and change the way it conducts itself in talks with the South.

South Korean delegates tried to reassure their counterparts repeatedly that the anti-terror security measures are not targeted at the North; it is exasperating that the North did not accept the explanation. Our intentions should have been clear enough from the earlier ministerial meeting held in Seoul immediately after the terror attacks. If the North is genuinely concerned about the security alert, it could have taken up the issue through a separate meeting of defense ministers.

But the North showed no serious effort to address their concerns. If, as speculated by some North Korea experts here, the North Korean negotiators at the inter-Korean talks were under pressure due to dissatisfied military circles in the North, the issue of relaxing military tension should have been taken up by a defense ministers meeting that can be called at any time. The North should be more active in seeking mutual agreement on the issue if its concern about the increased security measures and combat forces is real. The possibility of unexpected developments persists in the relationship between the two Koreas, but the way to resolve them is through dialogue. Neither side should resort to stonewalling or whining.

We have stressed that the window of dialogue between Seoul and Pyeongyang should always remain open. We have also said the North should be the beneficiary of our economic assistance, even if there is no immediate foreseeable financial return for us. The principle of reciprocity needs not be the bedrock of our policy, we have also argued. But the recent talks between the North and South remind us how difficult it is to improve the relationship between the two.

We need not be too disappointed that the meeting ended without agreement. Differences in positions are expected and talks can break up because of them, followed by a cooling off period. The two sides failed to reach an agreement, but it should be taken as positive that our delegates stuck to principle. The government has been criticized that it is being dragged around by the North's one-sided tactics, and another set of concessions would have shaken the basis of its policy of embracing the North.

The North must come to the realization that its uncooperative insistence can only turn public opinion in the South against it and narrow the options for those who would like to see more cooperation between the two Koreas. When the North revives itself on the spirit of mutual understanding and benefit, the inter-Korea dialogue can stand on firmer ground and become the basis for economic cooperation and peaceful coexistence. We call on the North to change.
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