[EDITORIALS]Eyeball to eyeball

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[EDITORIALS]Eyeball to eyeball

The international climate surrounding the Korean Peninsula is turning grim. After President George W. Bush's drubbing of North Korea as part of an "axis of evil," the United States again warned of North Korea's threatening weapons of mass destruction. Seemingly not the least bit intimidated, North Korea said Mr. Bush's comments "were little short of a declaration of war," and "the option to 'strike' impudently advocated by the United States is not its monopoly." The harsh words and the emotions that they spark are sufficient to give the impression that the United States and North Korea are nearing a showdown. A subtle but palpable tension is engulfing the Korean Peninsula, giving out an eerie feeling that stability and peace may be shaken to their roots.

We understand that Mr. Bush was speaking as a president of a country that is still fighting a war against terrorism, and his State of the Union address reflected that. But no matter how hostile the relationship between the two countries may be, it is too dogmatic and provocative to call a certain country a member of an "axis of evil." More so because both Washington and Pyeongyang want to leave room for a resumed bilateral dialogue.

Fortunately, the White House spokesman explained that Mr. Bush was not suggesting impending military action against rogue states, including North Korea. The statement is comforting; things are perhaps not as bleak and gruesome as they look. At this point, restoring trust between the two Koreas and between the United States and North Korea, and the political will to talk and negotiate with the North are the most important things. North Korea must also accept the changed international realities. It cannot respond to the rapid changes in the international society with the view of the world it revealed in the New Year's editorial it published, which was full of misguided self-adoration and closed-mindedness.

North Korea should also carry out more faithfully agreements reached between the two Koreas. That will inspire more international confidence in the regime. Seoul should end its impetuous approach to inter-Korean reconciliation. Instead, it should look at the peninsula objectively, settle on principles and mediate a dialogue between the United States and North Korea.

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