A catalyst for peace

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A catalyst for peace

Tensions over the Korean Peninsula are alarmingly heightened. Some pundits compare it to the situation facing the feeble Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) in the late 19th century or Europe shortly before World War I. Although Korea is not a feeble nation anymore, it still faces such comparisons because we could face a feeble destiny if we don’t wisely cope with external threats.

The question is whether we can break the deadlock on our own. Amid confrontations between America and China and between China and Japan, carving out our destiny on our own must top the priority list of the Park Geun-hye administration. We must find the way forward in inter-Korean relations - more specifically, in maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula and improving our ties with North Korea. We take special note of the high-level meeting yesterday between South and North Korea at Panmunjom. It could be that very rare thing: a consensus on the need for change on the peninsula.

The contact was made even without fixing an agenda for the talks. And although results weren’t available at press time, the officials most likely covered a wide range of issues including next week’s reunions of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War, a regularization of those reunions, the resumption of Mount Kumgang tours, the North’s sinking of the Cheonan warship and bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, and the May 24, 2010, sanctions against the North.

Pyongyang has been on a peace offensive after underscoring the importance of better relations earlier this year. Our government responded by urging the recalcitrant regime to demonstrate its sincerity through actions not words. Both sides must return to dialogue and figure out ways to raise the level of talks even to the level of the prime minister and hold them regularly. That could serve as momentum for thawing our frozen ties and changing the hostile tides swirling in Northeast Asia.

Without an advancement on nuclear issues, however, any improvement in relations has inevitable limits. The government must induce the North to change its mind about pursuing nuclear weapons. The Korean Peninsula can avoid a new, disgraceful chapter in its 5,000-year history only if both sides unflinchingly march forward by keeping the principles of dialogue and cooperation.

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