EDITORIAL; South-North Foreign Ministers' Meeting

Article excerpt

Foreign Ministers of South and North Korea held a talk in Bangkok, Wednesday and pledged to cooperate in the international community. The historic meeting, the first-ever between foreign ministers of the two Koreas, is wholeheartedly welcomed as the first step to translate a set of agreements, reached between President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang last month, into practice.

In the meeting between South Korean Foreign Minister Lee Joung-binn and his North Korean counterpart Paek Nam-sun which took place during the intermission of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) being held in the capital of Thailand, Lee reportedly pledged that South Korea would render unreserved support for North Korea's bid to join international organizations like the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

On the heel of the 40-minute talks, the foreign ministers of two Koreas issued a joint statement in which they said ``To further develop inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation, the two sides agreed to promote mutual cooperation in the international arena and matters of foreign relations.''

However, Paek failed to clarify on the North Korean position in connection with its earlier offer of shutting down its missile program in exchange for help in launching space satellites to the disappointment of the United States and other western countries. Paek was reported to have reiterated Pyongyang's previous position that the missile program aimed at the peaceful purpose of launching space satellites in answer to a question by Lee on whether the North had expressed a willingness to give up the program in return for outside help to put its satellites into space.

But, the significance of the meeting itself is incalculably big as Paek's participation in the ARF appeared to be a full-fledged debut into international society. North Korea's joining the ARF as its 23rd member nation is undeniably a culmination of the positive diplomatic offensive shown by the North in the international community. What is particularly noteworthy is that the North's entry into ARF means that the Stalinist nation is ready to solve security and other pending issues of this region through bona fide dialogue with member countries of the regional organization.

North Korea that had remained isolated, has normalized diplomatic ties with Australia and the Philippines lately, following its establishment of formal relationship with Italy earlier this year. Paek's meeting with his Japanese counterpart Yohei Kono for the first-ever foreign ministers' meeting between the two nations was another notable feature at the ARF. …