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2015年8月26日 (水)

南北高官協議 衝突の回避へ冷静に歩み寄れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
North, South Koreas must work toward concessions to avert armed conflict
南北高官協議 衝突の回避へ冷静に歩み寄れ

Escalating tensions through military provocations while seeking to win concessions through dialogue — North Korea should avoid this dangerous brinkmanship and practice self-restraint.

Given the heightening of military tensions between South and North Korea, representatives from the two countries entered into negotiations Saturday at the Panmunjom.

The South was lead by chief of the National Security Office of South Korea, and the North was lead by Hwang Pyong So, director of the General Political Bureau of the North Korean People’s Army. The exceptionally high-level bilateral talks were held on and off for three consecutive days. But the two sides are having difficultly reaching any kind of compromise.

To avoid the worst-case scenario of an armed conflict, we want the two sides to make an earnest effort to reach mutual concessions and find concrete measures to ease tensions.

Tensions were triggered after two South Korean soldiers were seriously injured when land mines, believed to have been laid by North Korea, exploded on Aug. 4 near the military demarcation line.

Seoul criticized Pyongyang for violating the Korean Armistice Agreement, and in response resumed anti-North Korea loudspeaker broadcasts for the first time in 11 years.

The North demanded a halt to the broadcasts and fired artillery shells into South Korean territory. Pyongyang proposed negotiations with Seoul while at the same time threatening to take further military action. North Korea has been alternating between a hard-line or moderate attitude to rattle the Park Guen-hye administration, which took retaliatory measures.

North Korea’s international isolation is regarded as a factor behind its latest provocative action. Its relations with China, historically the most friendly nation to the North, soured after Pyongyang carried out nuclear tests in defiance of international protests. Exchanges of leaders between the two communist countries have been suspended.

Cool heads vital

The North’s artillery fire came immediately after Park announced she would attend a Chinese ceremony to mark the “victory in its war against Japan.” We wonder whether this action was aimed at cooling the relationship between Seoul and Beijing, which has become closer.

Kim Jong Un issued a decree declaring a “quasi-state of war” to the country’s frontline troops. Can Kim, who lacks leadership experience, deal adequately with such an explosive situation while the country's political situation is so unstable? This fear will be difficult to eliminate.

Park, on the other hand, declared that her country “will cope with the provocation resolutely.” She cannot make concessions easily due to a domestic situation in which popular support for her administration has declined and media organizations are insisting on a hard-line stance.

It is essential, however, for the two Koreas to consider the risk of a military conflict and deal with the situation with cool heads.

The North Korean leadership is reportedly trying to tighten its grip on the military and the Workers’ Party of Korea, among others, by emphasizing the “threat” posed by South Korea. There is speculation that North Korea will test-launch an intermediate-range or a long-range missile to enhance its national prestige and time it to the 70th anniversary of the founding of the party on Oct. 10.

Japan, South Korea and the United States must cooperate closely and bolster information-sharing on North Korean affairs. Preparing all possible deterrent measures is also essential to deal with the North’s new military provocation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2015)


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