Restarting talks with North Korea

North Korea has not ended its hostile moves, causing a fear that it may carry out rocket launches and its fourth nuclear explosion test. South Korea has decided to withdraw its remaining workers from the Kaesong industrial complex, a joint business project between the North and the South.

Tension in the Korean Peninsula is high. First and foremost, the North should refrain from taking any steps that will further heighten tension in the Korean Peninsula. Then both North Korea and other parties concerned, including Japan, the United States and South Korea, should make serious efforts to start dialogue to diffuse the tension.

Under the leadership of Mr. Kim Jong Un, North Korea has taken a series of provocative steps — its third nuclear test, a declaration of a “state of war” with South Korea, nullification of the 1953 Korean War armistice, an announcement that it will reactivate a graphite nuclear reactor in the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

Pyongyang in April even withdrew its workers from the Kaesong industrial complex, the last remaining joint project with South Korea, which involved 123 South Korean companies and offered jobs to some 53,000 North Korean workers.

Because Pyongyang on April 26 declined Seoul’s proposal to hold a working-level meeting to normalize the operations at the industrial complex, Seoul decided to withdraw its remaining 176 workers and officials from it.

Thus the whole North-South business cooperation came to a standstill about two months after Ms. Park Geun Hye became South Korean president, although she attempted to relax the tension with the North through dialogue.

To counter the provocations of the North, the U.S. dispatched B-52 strategic bombers, B-2 stealth bombers and F-22 stealth fighters to the eight-week U.S.-South Korea joint military drill “Foal Eagle,” which lasted through Tuesday.

U.S. State Secretary John Kelly and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se said in their April 13 joint statement that if the North makes a right choice, including the implementation of denuclearization, the U.S. and South Korea are ready to implement the Sept. 19, 2005, joint statement of the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

North Korea takes the position that unless other parties accept it as a nuclear power, it will not respond to a call for dialogue. But it should seriously consider ways to start talks on the joint statement.

In the joint statement, North Korea “committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.”

The other parties to the six-party talks agreed to discuss providing a light-water reactor to the North “at an appropriate time.” The U.S. and North Korea also undertook “to exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize their relations subject to their respective bilateral policies.”

North Korea should recall that the joint statement paves the way for a permanent peace treaty and normal diplomatic relations with the U.S. In late March, North Korea decided to pursue both economic construction and nuclear weapons development. It should realize that given its economic conditions, it cannot have it both ways.