Di­a­logue must con­tinue

JoongAng Daily - - Views -

In or­der to sus­tain di­a­logue and reap the re­wards at the end, both sides must be sin­cere and hon­est with one another. This prin­ci­ple ap­plies to diplo­macy. If one side uni­lat­er­ally de­cides to dis­close state­ments ex­changed in con­fi­dence, the two can­not go on talk­ing. There were se­ri­ous con­se­quences for the in­terKorean re­la­tion­ship after the South dis­closed con­fi­den­tial con­ver­sa­tions among lead­ers of the two coun­tries in a 2007 sum­mit. Py­ongyang also dam­aged the re­la­tion­ship by dis­clos­ing de­tails of re­cent mil­i­tary talks.

In a lengthy ar­ti­cle last Thurs­day, North Korea’s of­fi­cial Korean Cen­tral News Agency dis­closed full de­tails of a high-level mil­i­tary meet­ing that took place at the truce vil­lage of Pan­munjom the pre­vi­ous day. It claimed it was do­ing so be­cause the South had leaked false in­for­ma­tion about the meet­ing. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, North Korean of­fi­cials re­peat­edly asked for mil­i­tary talks “cor­dially and sin­cerely” to pre­vent in­ci­dents like the skir­mishes near the mar­itime bor­der on Oct. 7.

Yet even after Seoul re­luc­tantly agreed to meet, there was a lack of sin­cer­ity. Gen. Kim Yong-chol, di­rec­tor of the Re­con­nais­sance Gen­eral Bureau, led the talks for the North and Lt. Gen. Ryu Je-se­ung, head of Na­tional De­fense Pol­icy Of­fice, rep­re­sented the South. The re­port claimed South Korean offi- cials merely re­peated what had been said pre­vi­ously. They were the first mil­i­tary talks in nearly four years.

The De­fense Min­istry im­me­di­ately is­sued a state­ment denying the re­port. Seoul re­vealed only what had been agreed upon, but Py­ongyang vi­o­lated that con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ment by dis­clos­ing all of the de­tails.

Py­ongyang’s be­hav­ior is in­ex­cus­able, but Seoul also shares some of the blame. It should not have pro­posed that talks be closed in the first place after re­peat­edly ar­gu­ing for trans­parency in the in­terKorean re­la­tion­ship and di­a­logue. To­gether with the re­cent ex­change of fire across the bor­der and a North Korean ves­sel that vi­o­lated the mar­itime bor­der, the gov­ern­ment’s sloppy han­dling and re­sponse to the mil­i­tary talks put a damper on the re­cent con­cil­ia­tory mood for di­a­logue after a group of high­level North Korean of­fi­cials made a rare visit to South Korea ear­lier this month and pro­posed se­nior-level talks.

But the mood for di­a­logue must be sus­tained. Re­cent de­vel­op­ments should not de­ter the two Koreas from hold­ing a se­nior-level meet­ing later this month to try — with sin­cer­ity — to dis­cuss a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ences again.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 18, Page 34

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