North Korea has called for an end to confrontation with the South, urging inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation. In a joint New Year editorial issued on Saturday, the North Korean press said, “Confrontation between north and south should be defused as early as possible.” The editorial, considered Pyongyang’s New Year policy statement, also said, “Active efforts should be made to create an atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation between the North and South.”
Through the editorial, Pyongyang appears to have signaled willingness to open dialogue with the South. It could be seen as a positive response to President Lee Myung-bak’s remarks on Dec. 29. Lee eased his opposition to resuming the six-party talks on denuclearization of North Korea by saying that the multilateral process is the only way to tackle the North’s nuclear problem. He also suggested the need to hold talks with the North to make the six-party negotiation more productive.
The North’s conciliatory gesture toward the South also follows the recent call from China and Russia for inter-Korean talks. The two countries’ move indicated a consensus has been reached among the participants in the six-party process that inter-Korean reconciliation should precede the resumption of the stalled negotiations. The North’s emphasis on defusing confrontation with the South suggests its realization that it cannot sidestep Seoul and pursue direct talks with Washington on its nuclear question.
But the North’s New Year message leads us to doubt its sincerity toward reconciliation with the South. If it is serious about mending fences with the South, it should first apologize for the atrocities it committed against the South last year. But the editorial stopped short of mentioning the North’s destruction of the Cheonan corvette and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. It just emphasized the need for dialogue and cooperation.
We suspect Pyongyang seeks to reopen dialogue simply because it wants economic aid from the South. If this is the case, the North needs to realize Seoul won’t offer any aid unless it takes concrete steps toward a complete dismantling of its nuclear programs. The North needs to show sincerity toward inter-Korean reconciliation and denuclearization through actions rather than words.