[EDITORIALS]The North’s same old tactics

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[EDITORIALS]The North’s same old tactics

The plan for removing propaganda from the Demilitarized Zone, which had been scheduled for completion by yesterday, has fallen through. In what was to be the first part of a three-stage process, our military removed the South Korean propaganda, as promised. But North Korea has yet to remove certain items, such as the messages praising Kim Jong-il on cliffs facing the South. Moreover, the North is refusing working-level contacts to discuss the completion of the process.
Such negligence on Pyeongyang’s part, and the attitude it displayed in the recent conflict over the North Korean vessel that crossed the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea, suggests that we should not expect to see the top-level military talks that were to take place soon. It is a shame that these talks, which were envisioned as an important opportunity to alleviate tension on the peninsula, are on the verge of falling through in this way.
It is time for the North to realize that its tactic of unilaterally breaking agreements after getting what it wants will not work much longer. Building trust is the top priority in inter-Korean relations, and only by keeping its word will the North also win the trust of international society. The North will not win the world’s confidence by such short-sighted tactics as agreeing to top-level military talks with South Korea to secure rice aid, then insisting that it will discuss military affairs only with the United States. Gaining the world’s trust is the first mountain to be crossed on North Korea’s path to economic recovery, and the first step on that mountain is the implementation of inter-Korean talks in good faith. Surely, Pyeongyang must realize this from numerous experiences by now.
Our own government’s attitude of agreeing to talks without realizing Pyeongyang’s real intentions is also problematic. Using the expression “Yellow Sea” instead of “Northern Limit Line” showed how overly eager our government was for an agreement. Acknowledgement of the Northern Limit Line is the principle behind the various measures to avoid skirmishes, including the establishment of a hotline. Yet our government cut a corner on this issue, perhaps, as a result, leaving North Korea room to cross the line again. Even after the North’s violation of the agreement, we cannot replace the propaganda we removed. Our government should learn from this incident that half-agreements with North Korea are even worse than no agreements.
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