Updated : May.06.2005 07:12 KST

[Editorial] North Must Come to 6-Party Talks

Foreign minister Ban Ki Moon says the process of a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue has reached a "grave stage" and has strongly urged the North to return to the six-party talks, and his comments are significant for more than a few reasons. This is the first time a high-level government official has called the current situation "grave" (jungdae gungmyeon), and it is very unusual to have Ban aim direct criticism at North Korea as if with a new kind of determination when he until now has avoided making blunt expression. His comments come immediately after top United States delegate to the six-party talks Christopher Hill completed his quick tour to Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo, so it even makes you wonder if maybe something is transpiring that is more serious than is felt by the people.

We have on many occasions criticized the Bush Administration's North Korea policy for being very unilateral and out of touch. We think its policy of pressuring the North into unilateral submission made the situation worse. The current situation, however, makes it increasingly difficult for that criticism to be communicated. One worries that if things get dragged on much longer there could be a situation that fundamentally threatens peace on the Korean peninsula. It is because we see the seriousness of the situation that we again call on North Korea to come to the six-party talks and argue its position in that format.

A Chinese source says that the North has stated conditions for returning to the process and those include bilateral discussion with the US within the format of the six-party talks and recognition as a sovereign nation. The US State Department spokesman, in return, has hinted that the US might be willing to talk to North Korea one-on-one at the talks. That makes you a little bit hopeful. In a recent interview with the Hankyoreh, Assistant Secretary of State for State East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill essentially accepted the North's demands. The problem, then, is about when the North will arrive at a decision. Mediation work by Korea and China will not get far when pressure by US hard-liners and the North's reaction continue to make it more dangerous. The situation must be seen for what it is: we are at a crossroads that will determine whether we proceed down a road towards a resolution of the question of peace on the Korean peninsula, including the nuclear issue, or we are on our way to disaster.

The Hankyoreh, 6 May 2005.

[Translations by Seoul Selection (PMS)]

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