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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 6)

2018/01/06 09:01

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Inter-Korean talks

Two sides should strive for tangible results

Delegates of the two Koreas will sit together at the truce village of Panmunjeom next Tuesday to discuss Pyongyang's plans to send a team to next month's PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. They are also likely to talk about how to improve the stalled inter-Korean relations following the North's continued nuclear tests and missile launches.

The latest developments taking place in the first week of 2018 are seen as a positive step toward the success of the Olympics and inter-Korean rapprochement. Now the two sides are required to make sincere efforts to produce good results from their talks in order to meet growing expectations about national reconciliation and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

First of all, Pyongyang should show its sincerity in its peace overture by its leader Kim Jong-un, who offered in his New Year address to hold a meeting to discuss the North's potential participation in the Winter Games to be held Feb. 9 to 25 in the South. The move has led to rapid progress when Seoul proposed high-level talks the next day and Pyongyang accepted the proposal.

South-North dialogue gained momentum when President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump agreed to delay joint military exercises until after the Olympics ends. The agreement came during a phone conversation between the two leaders Thursday. It will give a boost to Moon's efforts for a breakthrough in inter-Korean reconciliation by attracting a North Korean delegation to PyeongChang.

In fact, President Trump and his policymakers harbored skepticism about Kim's olive branch, given his brinksmanship over his nuclear and missile development programs. In response to Kim's warning to the U.S. that he has a "nuclear button" on his desk, Trump said via Twitter that his nuclear button is "much bigger and more powerful."

   U.S. officials cautioned that the North's peace overture may be aimed at driving a wedge between Seoul and Washington and will weaken the international sanctions against the reclusive country.

We welcome Trump's change of stance and his support for the inter-Korean talks. This move will undoubtedly send a message to the North that the U.S. and South Korea maintain a strong alliance regardless of any North Korean attempts to undermine it. It is also apparent the U.S. president does not want to be a passive onlooker in the rapidly changing situation on the peninsula.

There is no doubt the South needs close consultation and cooperation with the U.S. to make the inter-Korean talks a success in the face of the North Korean nuclear standoff. That's why Moon and Trump agreed to continue the campaign of maximum pressure against North Korea and to not repeat mistakes of the past.

It is imperative for Seoul to hold the talks with Pyongyang in order to ensure the North's denuclearization is pivotal to improving inter-Korean ties.

(END)

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