May 21, 2015 12:21
North Korea on Wednesday abruptly withdrew permission for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex. "No explanation was give for this last-minute change," Ban said. "Pyongyang's decision is deeply regrettable."
Ban is the chief of the world's top international body. He may be a former South Korean foreign minister, but he should be regarded as a messenger of peace transcending borders and nationalities. North Korea's abrupt cancellation is a major diplomatic discourtesy that no other country could imagine committing.
Still, it was a surprise the North decided to allow Ban to visit in the first place. Pyongyang had expressed clear discomfort with Ban, who spearheaded UN sanctions against the North over human rights abuses and other violations, and the North's submarine-launched missile test and executions of top brass suggest it is in no mood for peaceful negotiations at the moment.
The important question at this point is whether or not Kim Jong-un's leadership is showing any signs of fracture. North Korea has always been unpredictable and has used fanaticism as a weapon to threaten other nations. But Kim Jong-un has taken this type of capriciousness to a new level, canceling a planned trip to Moscow and executing his uncle and close aides with FLAK guns. North Korea may be experiencing unimaginable conflict and repression right now. Seoul needs to stay vigilant against North Korean provocations, because Pyongyang may seek to stir up trouble to focus attention away from internal strife.
But at the same time Seoul must not stop trying to engage North Korea in dialogue. In fact, it must redouble its efforts and show Pyongyang that it faces far more benefits from sitting down at the dialogue table.
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