[EDITORIALS]Hopeful signs for dialogue?

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[EDITORIALS]Hopeful signs for dialogue?

Affairs on the Korean Peninsula are developing positively; the "axis of insecurity" seems to be changing into an "axis of dialogue." Park Gil-yon, North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations, said Friday that Pyeongyang is ready to talk to the United States. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday that Washington has no plans to go to war against North Korea and repeated the U.S. offer of talks. As U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to Seoul nears, the South Korean government is doing its best to coordinate its North Korea policy with Washington's in order to encourage the North and the United States to resume dialogues.

Mr. Bush, who labeled North Korea a part of an "axis of evil," and the hawks in Washington have not yet fundamentally changed their hardline stance toward the North. Still, it is important that Mr. Powell recognized the possibility of resolving problems through dialogue with the North and with Iran, unlike the case with Iraq. That was a U.S. signal to Pyeongyang.

North Korea should accept this message and try to narrow its differences with Washington. It should take the initiative in overcoming its own crisis. North Korea-U.S. relations must be on the right track in order for Pyeongyang's relations with Seoul and Tokyo to improve. Only then will international aid flow to the North ?that is the cold reality of the international order. It is also noteworthy that Pyeongyang repatriated a Japanese reporter detained in the North on espionage charges.

Seoul also decided that it would publicly air the subject of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction as the United States has done. This is a signal from Seoul that keeping its relations with Washington on track is its priority; that should alleviate Washington's suspicion that Seoul does not have the will to keep its coalition with the United States intact. Both governments can beef up their coordination in dealing with the North.

The next question is whether Mr. Bush will himself signal a willingness for dialogue with Pyeongyang; if he does, all eyes will be on the North's reaction. Seoul, Pyeongyang and Washington should all realize that tension on the peninsula is not in their national interests; a willingness to lay the foundations for a productive dialogue is the only rational course.
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