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Good news about dialogue

Oct 03,2017
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington and Pyongyang were communicating through multiple channels. “We ask: Would you like to talk? We have lines of communications to Pyongyang. We’re not in a dark situation, a blackout,” he said while visiting Beijing.

Even at war, maintaining dialogue channels with the enemy state is essential in order to avoid the spread of the conflict from unintentional mistakes. Both Koreas or the United States could set off weaponry from human or machine error. If there is no communication channel, full-fledged conflict cannot be stopped. The efforts by Washington also help our policy for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear and missile crisis.

We must not be too optimistic, but Tillerson’s comment suggests more hope for a peaceful solution. Moscow joined Washington and Beijing in trying to mediate a diplomatic solution. Choe Son-hui, director general of the North American Department of North Korea’s foreign ministry, on Aug. 29 had talks with Russian officials in Moscow. Later this month, North Korean officials and former American officials will be meeting in Oslo for a so-called track 1.5 dialogue, a semi-governmental discussion. There may be a dramatic breakthrough in the crisis.

We hope for a peaceful solution, but must not let down our guard. The U.S. State Department said Pyongyang has not complied with its call for talks. No possible headway could be made if Pyongyang stays recalcitrant. North Korea many times confounded the United States and South Korea by going ahead with provocations during the process of dialogue over the last two decades. It could continue with its campaign of mastering nuclear and missile technology while talking of peace.

The maximum pressure policy must not be eased while leaving the dialogue option open. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un must feel the squeeze of sanctions in order to make him come to the negotiation table with sincerity. We also must make sure that Seoul is not kept in the dark while Washington and Pyongyang come to some kind of a deal. Many believe Kim would demand Washington recognize Pyongyang as a nuclear weapons state in return for suspending the intercontinental ballistic missile program. Washington would be less worried about a nuclear-tipped missile coming from North Korea, but we have to live with the nuclear threat. Seoul must do all it can to prevent a constant nuclear crisis.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 2, Page 26