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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 27)

Politics 09:46 June 27, 2020

Reconciliatory gesture
North called on to end 'most sorrowful war'

After a sudden hike in tensions, the two Koreas are exchanging reconciliatory actions and words that could provide an opportunity for dialogue. Marking the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1950-1953 Korean War, President Moon Jae-in all but proffered the North a chance to revive peace talks.

"The first step toward putting an end to the war is not to forget its horrible tragedy," in his address at a ceremony held at Seoul Air Base Thursday. Touting the "long-desired wish" of 80 million Koreans for peace, he called on the North to "boldly embark on an endeavor to end the most sorrowful war in world history."

The President's cautiously couched-words came after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called off military confrontation against the South few days before. It was preceded by a series of more direct conciliatory remarks from the ruling bloc. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) has proposed pursuing a formal end to the Korean War. Other DPK members have sponsored a motion calling for a formal end to the Korean War.

Thus, following two weeks of "hot" tension after the North's demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office, the two Koreas are at a "cold" point of waiting to see which party moves first. Once again, the burden of initiative seems to fall on the South's shoulders. For if the North had intended to grab world attention by ratcheting up tension, it has succeeded most definitively with the South. Seoul hurriedly dispatched Lee Do-hoon, the special representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs to U.S. to meet with his counterpart, Stephen Biegun, the special envoy for North Korea, over the tension spike.

Also North Korea resumed criticism of the South through its state media outlets Friday, while remaining relatively silent against the U.S. The North's Tongil Voice blasted Seoul for not implementing the inter-Korean declaration, "hamstrung by working group meetings with the U.S."

There are tricky hurdles ahead. The United States is maintaining the stance that without the North's denuclearization, there will be no let-up in sanctions or adopting a declaration to formally end the war. The North has loudly complained of the ineffectiveness of talking with the South. Policymakers should be clear about how they will balance these divergent parties to negotiate for peace. Also, domestically, 70 years after the fratricidal Korean War, Koreans desire peace. But the question is just how many more cycles of "hot and cold" interchanges will there be in the future? The North hopefully can find rapport with the President's words: "If we are going to talk about unification, we have to achieve peace first."
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