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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 8)

All Headlines 07:17 June 08, 2017

New N. Korea policy
Delineation pivotal to detente 2.0

North Korea has refused to allow the visits of by two nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The North previously allowed one for the celebration of the 2000 inter-Korean summit but only after the South Korean delegation dropped its suggestion of Gaeseong as the venue and accepted Pyongyang instead.

During the one month since Moon Jae-in, the self-proclaimed successor to the pacifist liberal late presidents -- Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun -- was inaugurated, the North has conducted three missile tests.

Already, the Moon government has approved 15 requests for inter-Korean contacts, a major departure from the previous Park Geun-hye government, and the preceding conservative head of state, Lee Myung-bak.

Now, the North repeatedly demands the Moon government be ready to abide by the spirit of cooperation as stipulated by the 2000 summit and the follow-up in 2007.

There is no reason to be disappointed at the North's initial negative responses to our peace overtures. But Moon should see limitations in a radical turnaround and delineate how he will proceed with his friendly policy toward the North.

Rumors abound that Moon wants to undo the May 24 Sanctions imposed two months after the North's March 2010 torpedo attack on the ROK frigate, Cheonan. A total of 46 ROK sailors onboard were killed.

The lifting of the eight-year-old sanctions could be a major step to turn the South's North Korea policy hard away from starboard but three conditions should be met.

First, the public would be reluctant to accept it unless the North addresses the issue at heart -- via an apology or a similar reference for the incident for which it has denied responsibility despite the outcome of a multinational investigation. Or the government would show a reasonable level of hope that the North may change, once such an olive branch is offered.

Second, going back on the current sanctions-first policy requires the consensus of the international community and understanding of Korea's key ally and partner in security, the United States. True, the U.S. has downshifted its stance for dialogue with the North -- from dismantling of its nuclear weapons to a moratorium. But Korea may not unilaterally ease the May 24 Sanctions or reopen the Gaeseong Industrial Complex without violating the international framework and straining the ROK-U.S. alliance.

Thirdly, the North is not what it was 20 years ago when it agreed to dismantle its incipient nuclear program under the 1994 Agreed Framework arrangement with the U.S. Pyongyang has a sizable arsenal of nuclear weapons with its intercontinental missile program being significantly finessed. Seeing it as its only meal ticket, the North has no intention to give up its asymmetric weapons -- or if it does, it would call for a much stiffer price than before.

Moon has not shown much of what he intends to do to the point that his North Korea policy is derided as the "Moonshine" policy. For this tricky issue that has a lot to do with the nation's fate, the President should stick to his open communication policy and share his thoughts with the nation.
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