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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 9)

All News 07:04 January 09, 2018

Restore trust
: Two Koreas should keep momentum of dialogue

Today's high level talks between Seoul and Pyongyang have significant implications as they will not only accommodate North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympics, but also open the way for inter-Korean rapprochement.

Both sides ought to do their best to achieve a real breakthrough to improve their bilateral ties during their talks at the truce village of Panmunjeom.

We hope the two sides will make sincere efforts to narrow their differences, compromise and reach some agreement both on the Olympics and inter-Korean detente. First, their discussion will focus on Olympics-related issues, possibly how a North Korean team will travel to PyeongChang, the venue of the Winter Games in the South, and a possible joint entry of both teams at the opening ceremony to be held Feb. 9.

But the talks should not be limited only to the Games. As the two sides already confirmed, they must discuss how to thaw icy South-North relations. They may talk about a reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War and how to reduce military tensions on the peninsula. But ultimately, they also need to discuss how to resolve the nuclear crisis.

Of course, it is difficult ― and even impossible ― for the two Koreas to find a solution to all the problems during their first meeting since December 2015 when they stopped all talks after holding a vice ministerial meeting. But they must at least present a method of producing a negotiated settlement for the nuclear standoff, if not agreeing to the North's denuclearization.

In this regard, it is important for Seoul and Pyongyang to restore mutual trust, which has been destroyed due mainly to the North's repeated provocations in defiance of international sanctions against nuclear tests and ICBM launches. Without regaining trust and confidence in each other, the two Koreas can never attain peace, coexistence and co-prosperity on the peninsula.

It is equally important for both sides to maintain the momentum of dialogue so that they can faithfully implement possible agreements to be reached in today's ministerial level talks and take further steps toward inter-Korean reconciliation and the North's denuclearization.

In this regard, Seoul should go all-out to help the inter-Korean dialogue lead to talks between Washington and Pyongyang so that they can find a peaceful solution to the nuclear issue.

It is worth noting U.S. President Donald Trump remarked Saturday that he would "absolutely" be willing to talk on the phone to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Trump also called the South-North talks a "big start." It is not clear whether he has softened his hard-line position toward Pyongyang, now preferring dialogue to military options. But it is clear that he has some expectations about the talks. So it's time for the two Koreas to meet such expectations. It might be the last chance for the North to do so.

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