Updated : Jun.18.2005 08:58 KST

[Editorial] We Welcome North Korea's Decision


North Korea's National Defence Commission Chairman Kim Jong Il has expressed the intention to return to the six-party talks by the middle of next month. He set a condition, that there be "firm intention" by the United States to "recognize and respect" the North, but it does not look like that will be an obstacle, since the US has already said it is willing to treat the North as a sovereign nation. We welcome this decision by North Korea. We hope to see it lead to a complete resolution of the nuclear issue.

North and South Korea have agreed to restarting the ministerial talks that have been stalled for so long, and to having a reunion event for separated families around August 15. Intra-Korean relations are becoming fully restored and back on track. The situation is becoming one where you can foresee a second summit. North and South need to combing their strength and make sure the situation continues so that the nuclear issue is resolved, and then so that progress can be made towards permanent peace on the Korean peninsula that leads to reunification.

Looking at recent activity you can see that the North is taking steps closer to making the "strategic decision" to abandon its nuclear program. During contact with representatives from the US in New York June 6, the North for the first time said it would return to the six-party talks, without setting a date. After that official Northern news outlets demanded the US withdraw its policy of aggression towards it, but it did not state that demand as a condition. When minister Chung Dong Young met with Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly President Kim Yong Nam, he was told that the North would "treat the US as a friendly nation" if the US recognizes the North's system and government, further hinting that the North is leaning more towards returning to the six-party talks. Kim Jong Il's comments come in the same context. "The declaration on a non-nuclear Korean peninsula is still valid and it was the dying wish of President Kim Il Sung," he said, hinting that a decision is not far off.

It is significant that Chairman Kim said what he did to Chung while he was visiting Pyongyang in his capacity as the head of the South's governmental delegation to the events marking the fifth anniversary of the summit. Chung ended up acting as President Roh Moo Hyun's special envoy. He verbally conveyed in detail the South's intentions and President Roh's "important proposal," which after the US-Korea summit in Washington Roh said he would pursue should the North return to the six-party talks. President Roh said recently that as directly related parties North and South Korea need to work actively to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, making it clear he intends to make the so-called "national cooperation" the North has long talked about one of the principles applied to resolving the nuclear issue. The hospitality shown to the Southern delegation and the direct meeting between Chung and Chairman Kim are important in that they show how the North is actively supporting what the South is trying to do. That will significantly contribute to the ability of North and South to exercise leadership in resolving the nuclear issue.

What needs to be done in the future is to further advance the North's strategic decision and the Korean government needs to deepen consultations with the related nations so as to formulate a more effective plan relating to the North's demand for assurances about its security and economic aid. It will also be important that there is intense cooperation with the US and Japan, so that the hard-line stance that surfaces every time the mood leans toward dialogue does not interfere. In addition to expanding exchange and cooperation in the economic and social area, North and South need to restart military talks, between generals and between defense ministers, who have met only once, so that there can be serious discussion about building peace.

The question of whether June 2005 will be a new landmark in the complete resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue and in unprecedented progress in intra-Korean relations depends on how hard North and South endeavor from now on. Each side has to take a leading role in all issues relating to the Korean peninsula. It goes without saying that no matter what, neither side take any action that harms mutual trust or hurts the situation.

The Hankyoreh, 18 June 2005.

[Translations by Seoul Selection (PMS)]



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