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Posted : 2017-04-19 16:44
Updated : 2017-04-19 18:59

Next government urged to resume dialogue with N. Korea

'Hopes high for next government

By Yi Whan-woo


Calls are growing for the next government to resume talks with North Korea based on lessons from the outgoing government's hard-line policy on Pyongyang.

The two leading presidential candidates — Moon Jae-in and Ahn Cheol-soo — are insisting on the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue, although they differ in their approaches.

They have different views over which countries should be involved in the talks, if started, and how to link such talks with Pyongyang's denuclearization.

Their campaigns come amid concerns that South Korea is being alienated from international talks over North Korea — its dialogue channels with the North have been completely cut off, while a possible bargain has been struck between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping concerning Pyongyang.

Moon, a former presidential chief of staff for the progressive Roh Moo-Hyun administration, appears to be more assertive than Ahn in resuming inter-Korean dialogue, according to analysts, Wednesday.

Moon proposed holding a summit with tyrannical leader Kim Jong-un in a joint questionnaire recently circulated by The Korea Times' sister paper the Hankook Ilbo and the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a civic activist group.

He also called for South Korea-led denuclearization talks in cooperation with the U.S. and China.

Ahn, a centrist, underscored a two-track strategy of resuming inter-Korean dialogue while maintaining international sanctions on North Korea.

Regarding the types of dialogue, he said the Seoul-Pyongyang talks should be pursued alongside Pyongyang-Washington talks, the four-party talks involving China and the six-party talks involving Japan and Russia.

Analysts agreed on a need for restoring communication channel with the Kim regime.

Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University said, "The two leading candidates, especially Moon, are on the right course in improving inter-Korean relations."

Others, however, were skeptical of Moon's and Ahn's approaches, saying "They are mere campaign promises that are uncertain to be realized."

The skeptics pointed out that North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs are more the advanced than in the 2000s when the previous two inter-Korean summits were held.

"Given the circumstances, resuming talks with North Korea is not something we can achieve on our own," said Yoon Tae-gon, a senior political analyst at Moa Agenda & Strategy. "We need to take a possible North Korean nuclear test and the Trump administration's North Korea policy into account as well."

Regarding Moon's proposal for a possible third inter-Korean summit, the analysts speculated that the Trump administration may be against it.

"I'd say the pledges from Moon and Ahn are simply lip service intended to woo their supporters," said Shin Yul, a political science professor at Myongji University.

"The erratic North Korean ruler is becoming more unpredictable day by day. And Trump will not tolerate it if the summit is held and there are no tangible results."

Referring to the Wall Street Journal report in 2016 about the U.S. attempt for peace treaty talks with North Korea, Shin also said Pyongyang ultimately reckons it will be Washington, not Seoul, in talks about its nuclear program.

"The U.S. may think the same as North Korea and the South is unlikely to take an initiative in denuclearization issues."





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