[EDITORIALS]Talks help only the North

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[EDITORIALS]Talks help only the North

The 10-point agreement between the two Koreas that is intended to boost cooperation and exchanges is a positive development. Particularly noteworthy is that the two sides agreed on working-level contacts to jointly investigate the Mount Geumgang Dam and to hold further minister-level talks in Pyeongyang in October. Yet, the seventh minister-level talks ended with only "a half success" since no date for military talks and the launching of cross-border railroad construction was fixed. The two sides agreed to hold military talks as soon as possible, but postponed the decision to fix a date to launch railroad construction.

The military talks are key to reducing tensions between the two Koreas and building trust. It is important to quickly reach a pact to remove landmines inside the Demilitarized Zone through these talks as a precursor to the railway project. The June 29 sea skirmish has demonstrated that the two Koreas can collide at any time. To ease tensions resulting from military confrontation and create a conciliatory atmosphere, the two sides' military authorities must meet to discuss the issues.

The North emphasized peace and cooperation, but they have avoided military talks, which are crucial for such development. The North's strategy might be to obtain fruits, such as rice aid, while postponing military talks by providing a number of excuses. Therefore, it is important to hammer out a date for military talks, instead of agreeing to meet on the ambiguous "earliest date possible."

The South has failed to conclude these two crucial matters because our government may well lack a negotiation strategy. The current administration has been concentrating too hard on burnishing its achievements before its term ends, and that is why it decided not to press the North harder on the responsibility for the recent sea battle.

If the South initiated an armed provocation, the North would not come to the negotiation table with such a lukewarm disposition. If Seoul had been firmly determined on its demands and aid to the North, the minister-level talks would not have ended without a tangible outcome.

The South Korean government must stop entering negotiations that will benefit only the North.
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