After 40-plus-hours of talks, North and South Korea on Tuesday pulled back from the brink with an accord that allows both sides to save face and avert the bloodshed they’ve been threatening each other with for weeks.
In an artfully crafted, though vague, piece of diplomacy, Pyongyang expressed “regret” over the fact that two South Korean soldiers were maimed in a recent land mine blast. While not an acknowledgement of responsibility, it allows Seoul to say it has received the apology it has demanded.
South Korea, for its part, agreed to halt anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts, which will let the authoritarian North trumpet to its people a propaganda victory over its bitter rival — and put an end to hated loudspeaker messages that outside analysts say could demoralize front-line troops and inspire them to defect.
The agreement is an important first step in easing animosity that has built since South Korea blamed North Korea for the mine explosion at the border earlier this month and restarted the propaganda broadcasts in retaliation.
But it’s unclear how long the good mood will continue. The accord does little to address the many major, long-standing differences the rivals still have. The two sides’ announcement that they’ll hold further talks soon in either Seoul or Pyongyang could do that, but the Koreas have a history of failing to follow through on accords and allowing simmering animosity to interrupt diplomacy.
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