North Korea again said many words in the latest verbal peace offensive, launched from the beginning of the year. This time, a joint statement by the government, political parties and civic groups called for an immediate and unconditional opening of “dialogues, negotiations and contacts” with South Korea “to discuss and resolve all problems related to the important matters of the (Korean) nation including reduction of tension, peace, reconciliation and national solidarity.”
Pyongyang further offered to “meet anytime, anyplace, whoever is willing to join hands with us regardless of their past … whether they be official or private, the ruling party or the opposition, liberals or conservatives” in a typical united front tactics.
The lengthy statement released Wednesday night through the official Central News Agency did not mention anything about the sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island last year which have put the inter-Korean relations at their worst in decades. But it did reveal Pyongyang leadership’s fear of the psychological campaigns Seoul has mounted since the deadly provocations last year. It asked for an end to “mutual slandering and provocative acts” that could cause military clashes.
It is not hard to read the real meaning of the North Korean gesture. Following the attacks, Pyongyang was awed by the formidable defense posture of the allied South Korean and U.S. forces ready to make counterattacks and was pressured by its guardian China to behave itself. Yet the North could be making further miscalculations ― that their attacks might have sufficiently scared the Southern public into favoring a soft approach of engagement with North Korea.
Seoul responds with demands for a show of sincerity from the North. That sincerity can be exhibited through stating an admission of guilt, apologizing for the loss of lives and punishing the commanders responsible. Kim Jong-il should realize that his regime has earned nothing from the reckless provocations in 2010 and that 2011 begins with the South holding the initiative with its enormous economy, which is nearly 40 times bigger than the North’s assemblage of primitive industries and agriculture.