Strategic observation

News Analysis: S. Korea takes first step to improve relations with DPRK, restore peace on peninsula

2018-01-10 20:49:33 (Beijing Time)


SEOUL, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- South Korea has taken a first step to improve relations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and restore peace on the Korean Peninsula by holding the first senior-level dialogue in about two years on Tuesday, local experts have said.

The high-level talks were focused on the DPRK's participation in the Winter Olympics hosted by South Korea and scheduled for February, but the two sides agreed to hold talks on military affairs, keeping the hard-won dialogue mood alive.

The high-level, inter-Korean dialogue "was a very positive first step. (South) Korea and the United States assessed it in a similar way. I agree with that," Bong Young-shik, a research fellow at Yonsei Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul, told Xinhua on Wednesday.

The researcher said the current South Korean government played a pivotal role in encouraging dialogue on the peninsula, adding that if issues that are easy to resolve are tackled by the two Koreas step by step, it would naturally create an atmosphere for denuclearization talks.

The talks between the two Koreas started with an initial focus on improved inter-Korean relations, but the eventual goal would be the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the expert said.

Some local experts have looked into the possibility of talks between the DPRK and the United States, which will be ultimately necessary to denuclearize the peninsula. What's more, South Korea may play a mediator role between the United States and the DPRK some time in the future, they said.

The Tuesday talks between the two Koreas were the first of their kind since vice ministerial-level officials met in December 2015. The resumed talks were at a very initial stage, thus the two countries were unable to talk about the "eventual goal of denuclearization," said Bong.

The denuclearization issue, however, was predicted to be put on the dialogue agenda during future inter-Korean talks.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who took office in May last year, said in his first New Year's press conference earlier in the day that sanctions and pressures were aimed at inducing the DPRK to come to the dialogue table.

Moon said improved inter-Korean relations cannot be separated from the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, stressing that the two issues should be pursued simultaneously to create a virtuous cycle between them.

He further noted that improved inter-Korean relations will help resolve the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue while the denuclearization efforts will help improve inter-Korean relations.

For the denuclearization of the peninsula, the United States and the DPRK should "sit down face-to-face as key players," said Bong.

Bong, however, said it is too early to discuss denuclearization talks, stressing that the most important thing is to "keep a momentum" for dialogue between the two Koreas as a first step in the right direction.