Editorial Notes

Korean peninsula opportunity should not be spurned: China Daily

Clad in light grey, North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un targets a softer image in his New Year address to the nation as he offers to open a dialogue with the South.

In its editorial on Jan 4, the paper says that Seoul's peaceful talks with Pyongyang will be a step in the right direction and should have Washington's support.

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Although the signs of easing animosity on the Korean Peninsula are welcome, the offer of talks from Kim Jong-un may represent merely a transient change of tone, rather than a shift in policy, and his overture is likely to come with a price tag.

Kim's nice-guy approach may not last long, if Pyongyang fails to get what it covets. Be that the easing of sanctions, grain, oil or anything else that helps it subsist.

Certainly that has been the case in several past attempts at ice-breaking.

Yet, be that as it may, what matters now is whether the relevant parties can maneuver a meaningful break from the tense standoff that has developed on the peninsula.

Since almost all stakeholders are in favor of a peaceful solution to the crisis, they should not let a chance like this slip by without giving it a try.

Pyongyang has a poor track record credibility-wise. But what if it is seriously eager for engagement this time?

United States President Donald Trump may very well be correct in observing Pyongyang's olive branch to Seoul shows "sanctions and 'other' measures are beginning to have a big impact".

 

And the stakeholders have the option of substantially upgrading sanctions if Pyongyang does revert to past practices.

Therefore, instead of flippantly and childishly claiming to have a "much bigger and more powerful nuclear button", the US president should try to be supportive of Seoul's enthusiasm for talking with Pyongyang.

US UN envoy Nikki Haley says her country would not take any talks seriously since, instead of "a Band-Aid", they want Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons now.

But a Band-Aid is exactly what Seoul wants while it hosts the Winter Olympics next month.

And the intended dialogue on Olympic cooperation does have the potential to lead to further inter-Korean engagement.

 

Kim reopened a key cross-border communication channel with South Korea for the first time in nearly two years on Wednesday, as the rivals explored the possibility of sitting down and talking after months of acrimony and fears of war.

And Seoul has responded positively and agreed to talk next Tuesday (Jan 9) on cooperation regarding the Winter Olympics.

Such diplomatic pragmatism could serve Seoul well, at least for the duration of the games.

However, it is to be hoped that something more substantive can be produced beyond that if the two sides can proceed in the current direction of engagement.

China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.