Moving way too fastNorth and South Korea have decided to hold yet another ministerial meeting, just two days after the breakthrough agreement on Tuesday. In a working-group meeting held in Kaeseong, the two sides reached an agreement regarding the schedule for the upcoming ministerial meeting in just 40 minutes. The previous ministerial meetings came to a sudden halt after North Korea’s missile test in July. The resumption of the meetings means rice and fertilizer aid to North Korea is also likely to resume soon.
We fully welcome the talks between the top officials of the two countries. However, the issue of North Korea’s nuclear program and missile tests, the fundamental source of all the political tensions on the Korean Peninsula, is unresolved despite the agreement earlier this week. The government is trying too hard to resume the talks with North Korea, as if all the problems were already solved completely, which gives us the impression the government may be rushing. According to a survey by the Munhwa Ilbo, 65 percent of respondents said the government should resume talks with the North after monitoring whether North Korea complies with the latest agreement. Only 31 percent said the talks should be resumed as soon as possible. The government’s rush to resume the inter-Korea talks even prompted some observers to suspect that the government has ulterior motives.
President Roh Moo-hyun, in a meeting with Korean immigrants during a visit to Italy, said, “if we give everything to North Korea, it will eventually benefit us all,” a comment that was completely inappropriate. Such a comment, made ahead of many inter-Korean talks to come including the six-party talks, may deteriorate South Korea’s negotiating muscle. And it was also completely wrong to compare mass aid to North Korea with the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan was a post-war economic measure to revitalize Western European nations, which were democratic countries with no nuclear ambitions.
The Feb.13 agreement was only a preliminary roadmap to resolving the North Korea nuclear crisis. A cautious and careful approach is essential to solve the issue. The first prerequisite for North Korea is a shutdown of its nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon by April 13. It is not too late to make a decision on aid to North Korea after watching whether the country actually makes the move. Aid to North Korea should be implemented at the same pace as North Korea’s future moves to solve the crisis it caused.