Pushed by the United States and China, the two Koreas are set to resume dialogue. On the heels of the U.S.-China summit in Washington on Wednesday, North Korea proposed that the two sides hold high-ranking military talks to discuss the sinking of the South Korean Navy’s Cheonan warship and the North’s shelling of the South’s Yeonpyeong Island.
Seoul accepted to enter talks with the North to see what it has to say about its unwarranted aggressions. At the same time, it has decided to propose talks on denuclearization as the North’s telegram sent to the South omitted denuclearization as a dialogue topic.
How the resumed inter-Korean dialogue proceeds is entirely up to the North. If it is serious about resetting its relationship with the South, it should first apologize to Seoul for the atrocities it has committed and the pain it has inflicted on the people in the South. If it keeps offering unacceptable excuses, the dialogue cannot continue.
If the North attempts to use the resumed dialogue as a means of avoiding its responsibility for the aggressions and restarting the six-party talks, it will be disappointed. It needs to realize it cannot get external support for the reconstruction of its moribund economy without discussing the denuclearization issue directly with the South. This is the message that the leaders of the U.S. and China sent when they emphasized in their joint summit statement the need for the two Koreas to hold sincere and constructive dialogue.
The North should heed the message and remember that there is no country in the world other than South Korea that is willing to help it rebuild its economy in return for denuclearization. Therefore, it needs to show its sincerity toward denuclearization to the South first.
It’s time North Korean leader Kim Jong-il made a strategic decision on the nuclear programs, given his failing health, worsening economic difficulties and, more importantly, the growing political and social instability in the North. He should not delay his decision any longer.