Northern arroganceThe 21st round of ministerial talks between the two Koreas ended without producing any agreement. North Korea has not shown any real effort to resolve the nuclear issue, and in response South Korea has withheld pending rice shipments. But North Korea refused to discuss substantive issues on the agenda.
North Korea’s attitude is deeply regrettable. But it is good that the South Korean government stuck to the principles of inter-Korean relations, something we have rarely seen in recent years. In an inter-Korean meeting for economic cooperation in late April, South Korea linked rice aid to North Korea’s implementation of the agreement reached at the six-party talks in February. But some predicted that South Korea would send the rice aid even if North Korea did not implement the agreement. We hope South Korea will maintain its firm stance.
It is likely that as a result of this meeting, inter-Korean ties will become less friendly. The reunions of separated family members living in the South and North may suffer. But we do not need to fear this too much. Inter-Korean ties did not deteriorate because there were insufficient meetings or agreements. It was mainly because North Korea broke agreements or ignored South Korea.
It was the same in the recent meeting. The South clearly said that the rice aid would be delivered in accordance with the North’s implementation of the six-party nuclear agreement. But that agreement has not been honored at all. There is no reason for South Korea to change its stance. But North Korea was stubborn and insisted that we should send the rice, otherwise there will be no family meetings. This only proves that North Korea does not listen to South Korea. North Korea still believes that if it keeps insisting and pushing South Korea into a corner, the South will give in.
However, South Korea is a democratic country where public opinion is very important. If more South Koreans eventually agree on giving rice aid to North Korea, the South Korean government can push the assistance more vigorously.
But when South Korea’s top envoy said nice things, the leader of the North Korean negotiating team responded with nonsense. North Korea’s negotiators acted arrogantly, as if they came here to pick up something they had left behind earlier, instead of saying thank you. Pyongyang earned South Korea’s resistance. North Korea must stop insisting and demanding and must adopt a more humble attitude.