Updated : Feb.16.2005 03:01 KST

[Editorial] US Must Be Flexible to Resolve NK Nuclear Issue

The foreign ministers of Korea and the United States have met and decided to engage in a swift diplomatic effort to have North Korea return to the six-party talks at the earliest date possible. It is fortunate that despite the North Korean foreign ministry's statement of February 10, the nations concerned with the North Korean nuclear issue are staying with the principle of resolving it diplomatically and peacefully through the six-party talks. The problem is the US's hard-line attitude.

Both foreign ministers agreed that North Korea basic motive for declaring it possesses nuclear arms is to strengthen its negotiating position. Just a few days ago, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote off the statement as something the North has talked about on previous occasions. What that means is that the issue is still in the negotiation phase. At around the same time the foreign ministers were meeting, however, the US State Department declared that the US would not be making any concessions for the sake of getting the North to return to the six-party process. The New York Times reports that for the past several months the US government has been developing a new strategy to choke off its sources of income. The wall of distrust between the US and North Korea will not be torn down with an attitude that calls for talks on the one hand while nevertheless taking a hard-line approach.

Instead of stating that it will not make any compromises, the US needs to approach the matter ready to give a serious ear to what the North really wants. Instead of calling only for its unilateral submission, the US needs to be ready to produce a more realistic and creative proposal that would be acceptable to the North Koreans. There is no reason for the US to avoid direct dialogue with North Korea if it really wants to resolve the nuclear issue.

More time will be needed to determine exactly what the North's intention was in making its sudden announcement. It will also take time to see what becomes of China's effort at mediation. If you take the North's insecurities about its security into consideration, however, if should not be too hard to guess what the statement meant by "the right conditions and atmosphere." Negotiations happen by recognizing the other side and making small concessions while pushing and pulling back and forth. The US has nothing to lose by being flexible.

The Hankyoreh, 16 February 2005.

[Translations by Seoul Selection (PMS)]


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