[EDITORIALS] Now It's Washington's Turn

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[EDITORIALS] Now It's Washington's Turn

Kim Jong-il, National Defense Commission chairman of North Korea, has said his country's moratorium on missile tests would last until 2003, that North Korea would resume dialogue with the United States and he would visit South Korea. These announcements are encouraging signs for peace on the Korean Peninsula. The reaction of the Bush administration is being watched with keen interest as Mr. Kim has conveyed his messages through conversations with visiting Swedish prime minister and European Council president, Goeran Persson, which adds weight and credibility of his words.

It is hoped that the Bush administration would complete its review on North Korea policy as soon as possible and proceed with practical and constructive negotiations with the North. The United States may feel uneasy that Mr. Kim has taken out an appeasement policy that could negate the U.S. logic behind a missile defense system. However, as Mr. Persson said, "the ball is now in the American court." North Korea experts say the Pyongyang's missile tests moratorium could be seen in two ways: a move to hasten the resumption of dialogue with the United States and as a threat to test missiles if negotiations are not fruitful. Moreover, the United States could indeed think that its relationship with the North had regressed because the North says missile exports are just a matter of trade. The United States should take Mr. Kim's words as a desire to resume dialogue and resume negotiations as soon as possible on the basis of the Clinton administration's North Korea policy. The North should understand that its national security can be secured only when it improves its relationship with the United States and actively engage in negotiations with Washington.

Mr. Kim must also show his will to reconcile by keeping his promise to visit Seoul. It is unreasonable that the North urges us to cooperate with it while Mr. Kim insists his visit to Seoul is connected to the U.S. policy on North Korea. That may be why Mr. Persson advised Mr. Kim to "decide independently on a Seoul visit." His visit to the South would demonstrate the changes in the North and work positively in improving relations between Washington and Pyongyang.

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