[EDITORIALS]A coolheaded responseThe reaction of U.S. government officials and North Korea experts to the meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Unification Minister Chung Dong-young is cautious and discreet. It contrasts with that of the South Korean government, which attaches significant meaning to it. To narrow the gap in understanding between the two governments, it is necessary for South Korea to give a full explanation of the contents of the meeting to Washington as soon as possible.
While saying, “We have yet to find out the details of the meeting,” the U.S. State Department maintained the position that “if the North comes back, the six-party talks will resume. But the North’s return to the talks is not enough; there should be progress in the talks over the dismantling of the North Korean nuclear program.”
Mr. Kim said, “We can return to the six-party talks even in July,” but he didn’t specify the date. And he attached a precondition: “If the United States has a firm intention to recognize and respect us.” Washington seems not to give much credence to Mr. Kim’s words. If there is a gap between Seoul and Washington, there will be disharmony over the solution to the North’s nuclear problem. We can expect smooth U.S.-South Korean cooperation only when both countries share information on the conversation Mr. Chung had with Mr. Kim.
It seems that Mr. Kim wanted to show the outside world that the North has the will to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, and to let the world know that the United States hasn’t abandoned its hostile policy toward North Korea. Some experts analyze that Mr. Kim aimed to use the meeting both as leverage for escaping international pressure to abandon North Korea’s nuclear program and as a wedge to create a crack in U.S.-South Korean relations.
In the South, there already are people who urge Washington to respond immediately, saying, “The ball is in the United States’ court,” or who say optimistically, “North Korea has taken steps to return to the six-party talks.” The government must respond coolheadedly, watching the development of the situation.
Our goal is denuclearizing and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula. To make the meeting an occasion for solving the nuclear problem and inter-Korean relations, we have to behave discreetly. We can’t achieve our goals if there is a problem in the U.S.-South Korea alliance by behaving as if we give priority to inter-Korean cooperation.