[EDITORIALS]Military summit holds promise

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[EDITORIALS]Military summit holds promise

In yesterday’s first inter-Korean talks between military generals at Mount Geumgang, the two Koreas discussed in detail ways to prevent collisions between vessels near the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea, but failed to come up with a concrete agreement. South Korea suggested setting up a direct line between the Yellow Sea fleet commands of both sides and using the same frequency waves between coastal guard vessels, but details are scheduled to be discussed later. The two Koreas agreed to hold a second round of talks on June 3 to maintain momentum.
The talks are meaningful in that high-ranking defense officials from North and South Korea met to discuss ways to mitigate tension in the peninsula. This shows that the North has abandoned its previous insistence on discussing military affairs with the United States only.
Although there were no tangible results from the talks yesterday, we hope that the meeting will lead to the institutionalization of general-level talks and defense ministers’ talks, and then to military trust-building measures, and ultimately to disarmament and peace in the peninsula.
Currently, the trade between the two Koreas totals $800 million per year. By the end of this year, products will be manufactured in the Gaeseong Industrial Complex. This shows progress in inter-Korean relations. However, such progress will be limited if military tension persists.
Moreover, the large-scale economic cooperation that the North wants can only happen if peace is established in the peninsula. And the North knows this. If events such as the naval clash in the Yellow Sea in the summer of 2002 happen again, North-South relations will no doubt become irrevocably damaged. The North must keep this in mind and show good-faith efforts.
In a time when the role of U.S. forces in Korea is undergoing changes and thus causing confusion over security, the inter-Korean military generals’ talks can raise a question in another dimension. With the mitigation of tension on the peninsula, the role of U.S. troops here could further change, and discussions on changing the armistice into a permanent peace treaty could also occur. The government must be well ware of this and must make meticulous preparations for various options.
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