Updated : Feb.14.2005 07:30 KST

[Editorial] Guard Against Hardline Approach to NK


Calls for a hardline approach to North Korea are showing signs of surfacing again. It is a problem that North Korea has announced it will not be participating in the six-party talks and that it possesses nuclear arms, but it is shortsighted to call for a hardline response just because of that. The principle about resolving the North Korean nuclear issue diplomatically and peacefully must not be shaken.

The calls for a hardline approach generally have the United States as their epicenter, with conservative forces in Japan and Korea in partial agreement. You even see a desire to break up the framework of the six-party talks in their old calls for pressuring North Korea through economic sanctions and the proliferation security initiative (PSI). Examples would be suggestions that China has to be strongly pressured to join in on sanctions, or that there should be "five-party talks" without the North participating. US media reports that US vice president Dick Cheney demanded Korea stop sending fertilizer to North Korea is a reflection of that hardline mood.

That approach is irresponsible and dangerous in that it promotes a confrontational situation without anything to function in a way that would ease that confrontation. Instead of resolving the North Korean nuclear issue, it will of course only make the situation more tense, because it will further exacerbate the single biggest factor that is making the situation worse, the mutual distrust between the US and North Korea. It is regrettable that the US still refuses to engage in direct dialogue. It is less than convincing when the US says it does not seek regime change in the North while at the same time it avoids meeting with the North directly. The Grand National Party (GNP), for its part, must not use the current situation as means for a political offensive. It is a shortsighted failure to read what is a complex situation to see the North's declaration as proof that policy towards it has been a thorough failure.

The government needs to devote all its ability to creating conditions that would have the North participate in the six-party talks. The Gaeseong industrial complex project, fertilizer aid, and other intra-Korean exchange needs to continue without complications. North Korea, in turn, needs to realize that nuclear arms will not guarantee its system of government. We are at the point where an exchange of special envoys between North and South to achieve a breakthrough in resolving the issue has to be considered.

The Hankyoreh, 14 February 2005.

[Translations by Seoul Selection (PMS)]




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