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2009年2月 2日 (月)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 31(IHT/Asahi: February 2,2009)

EDITORIAL: Pyongyang talks tough


North Korea's rhetoric toward South Korea is growing ever more strident.


All agreements reached in efforts to put an end to the political and military confrontation (between the North and the South) will be nullified, North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea announced on Friday.


It was only on Jan. 17 that the North Korean military also declared it will "take an all-out confrontational posture" against its neighbors to the south.


We cannot just brush these statements aside, regarding them simply as bluffs.


North Korea has already suspended dialogue and personnel exchanges with South Korea, and these recent pronouncements will prolong the suspension.

There is also the danger that Pyongyang will embark upon a military provocation in the Yellow Sea off the Korean Peninsula, similar to the naval dust-up between the two nations in 2002.


We would like to say this to North Korea: Stirring up tensions will only further your isolation and do you no good whatsoever. North Korea must honor the many agreements it has built up with South Korea over the years, and implement them.


In the announcement Friday, Pyongyang said regarding relations between the North and South that, "there is no longer any way to save them nor is there any hope for improvement." This is a typically North Korean way of selfishly announcing something solely for its own end.


South Korea's President Lee Myung Bak will soon mark his first anniversary in office. Throughout the past year, North Korea has vehemently denounced the president, calling him things like a "traitor to the nation." No doubt this is because the Lee administration's stance toward the North irks Pyongyang tremendously.


President Lee has criticized his predecessor President Roh Moo-hyun's administration, saying it had been too conciliatory toward North Korea.

Lee intends to review the joint declaration of the 2007 North-South summit that includes a range of promises for economic cooperation from the point of view of whether they were appropriate and had public support.


North Korea has objected, saying Lee is ignoring the joint declaration. For the North, this is a matter of saving face.


North Korea was also irritated when Lee appointed as unification minister a professor who was the architect of the administration's new policy that links economic assistance to progress in North Korea's denuclearization.


When it made its latest announcement, Pyongyang was doubtless cognizant of some public sentiment in South Korea that opposes Seoul's tougher stance against the North.


By stressing the tensions between the two Koreas, North Korea is also apparently trying to keep in check the new Obama administration in the United States, which has yet to reveal a tangible North Korean policy.


Relations between the two Koreas are in a dismal state. Tourist visits to North Korea's Mount Kumgang ground to a halt after the shooting death of a South Korean tourist last year. Sightseeing in the old capital of Kaesong has stopped.


North Korea has evicted South Korean government workers from the Kaesong industrial complex, operated with South Korean funds, and also tightly limits cross-border movement by road.


Pyongyang sees little to be gained in advancing North-South relations while the six-party talks over its nuclear program remain stalled, and while its relationship with the United States is unclear.


There must be no further division within South Korea, spurred by North Korean words and actions. We urge the Lee administration to react rationally, and clearly demonstrate its willingness to co-exist peacefully with North Korea.



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