[EDITORIALS]Yet another promise brokenExperts forecast that the inter-Korean general-level military talks would continue to be stuck in limbo next year, because the 17th round of inter-Korean ministerial talks failed once again to fix a date for the next round of military talks.
The two Koreas had agreed to hold the military talks when they met in June, at the 15th ministerial talks. It was agreed that the meeting would be held on Mount Baekdu and that the date would be decided by the military authorities of two parties. Yet the North Koreans have shown no signs of proceeding forward in the six months since then.
The resumption of military-to-military meetings was something that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il himself had agreed upon. In a June meeting with South Korea’s Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, Mr. Kim accepted the request on the grounds that the resumption of the meetings was necessary for reconciliation and cooperation between the two Koreas. Yet North Korea has shown a completely different attitude at the negotiation table. One comes to seriously doubt the use of continuing dialogue with the North Koreans when even a promise made by their highest leader isn’t kept.
The promise of a military meeting isn’t the only thing that North Korea is not upholding. A meeting between the fishing authorities of both sides to discuss common fishing grounds was also promised by Mr. Kim to Mr. Chung, but there is no news on that, either. The test drive for the Gyeongui railroad, scheduled for October, was postponed without further promise. It is pointless talking to North Korea if they will continue to say one thing and do another.
The Roh Moo-hyun government has almost always unconditionally given in to North Korea’s demands. It has handed over rice, fertilizer and even North Koreans arrested for espionage, all at Pyongyang’s request. Yet we have not seen North Korea return our assistance and kindness by returning kidnapped South Koreans or prisoners of war. South Korea did nothing when North Korea failed to keep its promise. As a result, North Koreans may come to think that they don’t have to keep their promises.
We must stand firm against the North Koreans when they refuse our requests, even when they use the excuse of “military opposition.” We should ask whether the North Korean military show such disrespect for the word of their topmost leader. We need the wisdom to leverage aid on North Korea. We cannot pursue a real reconciliation of the two Koreas if we always give and get back nothing.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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