North Korea at­taches the usual pre­con­di­tions to di­a­logue in­vites

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

On June 15, the day mark­ing the 15th an­niver­sary of the his­toric sum­mit be­tween Pres­i­dent Kim Dae-jung and North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, Py­ongyang of­fered di­a­logue with Seoul. How­ever, in a typ­i­cal North Korean fash­ion, sev­eral pre­con­di­tions were at­tached to the of­fer.

As usual, the North de­manded the sus­pen­sion of the joint South Korean-U. S. mil­i­tary ex­er­cises. It also de­manded an end to the “slan­der” against the North as well as the re­moval of le­gal and in­sti­tu­tional mech­a­nisms that stand in the way of in­ter-Korea ex­changes and co­op­er­a­tion.

The Uni­fi­ca­tion Min­istry re­sponded to the North Korean state­ment by say­ing that Py­ongyang should come to the di­a­logue ta­ble with­out pre­con­di­tions. It also urged the North to end provoca­tive ac­tions that raised ten­sions on the Korean Penin­sula.

The North Korean lead­er­ship should be re­minded that its words and ac­tions do not match, mak­ing its of­fer of di­a­logue less than cred­i­ble. The day be­fore the latest pro­posal, North Korea testfired three short-range mis­siles into the East Sea — a clear provo­ca­tion by any stan­dards. On Tues­day, the KCNA also re­ported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ob­served night­time fir­ing drills by navy ships and ground ar­tillery sub­units. While the re­port did not spec­ify the date of the ex­er­cise, it is thought to have taken place in the early hours of Mon­day be­fore the di­a­logue of­fer was made.

Py­ongyang’s two-faced of­fer of di­a­logue could per­haps be ex­plained by the two dif­fer­ent needs it is try­ing to meet. The fre­quent show of mil­i­tary might, with North Korea’s young leader of­ten shown at the scene, may be largely de­signed for the do­mes­tic au­di­ence and in­tended to demon­strate that Kim is firmly in charge. On the other hand, North Korea, which has been sub­jected to pro­tracted in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions, needs to come out of its iso­la­tion. At a time when ties with tra­di­tional al­lies China and Rus­sia are not at their best, Py­ongyang’s iso­la­tion is un­doubt­edly acutely felt by the North Korean lead­er­ship. It is against such a back­ground that Py­ongyang is reach­ing out to Seoul with an of­fer of di­a­logue.

In­ter-Korean re­la­tions have been dead­locked for quite some time. The last round of for­mal high-level talks was held in Fe­bru­ary 2014 and led to a re­union of sep­a­rated fam­i­lies that month, the first such re­union in three years. Rather than snub Py­ongyang’s latest di­a­logue of­fer, Seoul could give it pos­i­tive con­sid­er­a­tion. North Kore­ans do not make the best di­a­logue part­ners, but con­tin­ued en­gage­ment is prefer­able to con­tin­ued ten­sions. This is an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished by The Korea Her­ald on June 17.

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