[EDITORIALS]How to deal with tensions

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[EDITORIALS]How to deal with tensions

Ever since U.S. President George W. Bush called North Korea part of an "axis of evil," the situation on the Korean Peninsula has become complicated. Following Mr. Bush's stern warning, the tension between Pyeongyang and Washington has sharply escalated; a diplomatic rift between Seoul and Washington over their policies toward the North has deepened; and reactions of South Koreans have become divided.

Politicians of the ruling and opposition parties, intellectuals and citizens seem to be split into two groups ?for and against Mr. Bush's remark. Such an internal separation is not desirable for stability and peace on the Korean Peninsula or for the sound development of a South Korean-U.S. coalition. Allies can have different standpoints and their policies for a same goal can differ. Officials in Seoul, Washington and Pyeongyang should recognize the cold reality of the problems during these anxious times and resolve the issues based on factual analyses.

Washington explained that Mr. Bush's remark was meant to warn the North of its threat to peace and stability on the peninsula and to interests of the United States and its allies. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States did not mean to carry out impending military action or to withdraw its offer of talks. Mr. Powell stressed that Washington's intention was, indeed, the opposite.

Washington added that Mr. Bush had to use the words "axis of evil" because there were convincing reasons. Yet we still do not know what those reasons are. As Mr. Powell acknowledged, Pyeongyang has been respecting the 1994 Geneva agreement.

The North has postponed missile launch tests; it has even expressed support for an anti-terrorist stance, which it did through the Swedish Embassy in Pyeongyang after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Therefore, we want to ask the United States and our government what the North has done recently to strain tensions on the peninsula.

Korean officials said they were not given much information from Washington about those tensions. That lack of information explains why Seoul and Washington have drastic differences in their approaches toward the North. As a result, there has been speculatation that the collaborating policies and the sharing of information between Seoul and Washington have been badly shaken.

South Korea and the United States are in discord over Washington's stern warning against the issues that would pose possible threats to the South and to the allies of the United States. Such conflicts are never desirable. Fortunately, Washington and Pyeongyang continue to make clear that dialogues are a priority. Therefore, they should restrain drastic verbal attacks and actions.

Inter-Korean and South Korea-U.S. relations should not be victimized by ideologies. Practical and objective approaches should be employed to identify the threats of North Korea accurately and then countermoves should be planned. Anti-U.S. sentiments must not be triggered by hasty arguments, and international affairs should not be used to cover up domestic politics. We should never let groundless conspiracies harm the national interests of South Korea and the United States.

Seoul and Washington should discuss the true nature of North Korea's threats thoroughly at the forthcoming summit, instead of debating ideologies and policies. If there were misunderstandings and differences in opinions, the Feb. 20 summit should resolve them. Until then, we should wait and see how the situation develops.
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