[EDITORIALS]'Nonpartisan' infighting

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[EDITORIALS]'Nonpartisan' infighting

There is something wrong with the way the National Assembly is trying to adopt a bipartisan resolution to urge Washington and Pyeongyang to open talks before U.S. President George W. Bush's Seoul visit. The ruling and opposition parties are actually engaged in some sharp partisan bickering over how to respond to Mr. Bush's "axis of evil" pronouncement, and sharp words have been exchanged over a Washington Post article saying that the opposition leader Lee Hoi-chang endorsed Mr. Bush's words. The ruling party blames the Grand National Party chief for asking Washington to take a hard line against the North. The GNP retorts that the ruling party is playing cheap tricks, blaming Mr. Lee for the diplomatic breakdown between Washington and Seoul.

The real problem here is that the dispute seems to be stoking the flames of a persistent Korean problem - ideological division. There is criticism that anti-American sentiment, which lies at the core of ideological conflict in the South, is now more broadly based: The sentiment seems to speak on behalf of North Korea rather than just opposing the United States. It is our politicians' job to resolve the ideological differences, so it is frustrating to see how they are actually fanning the flames of division. And our politicians' response to the tension between the United States and North Korea smacks of amateurism. Pyeongyang and Washington seem to be controlling the level of their offensives based on a close study of each other's strategy.

Our politicians should think of the national interest, novel as that sounds. The new reality is that the North's weapons of mass destruction should top the agenda of talks. Pyeongyang must also change its policy of not providing food and other aid to its starving citizens despite sharp criticism from the public in the South. Dialogue must also address these issues. President Kim Dae-jung has said, "The important thing is that whether it be the U.S-ROK alliance, inter-Korean relations or U.S.-North Korean relations, things should be resolved through dialogue." Efforts by our politicians to find a peaceful solution to the tensions on the Korean Peninsula should rest on that principle.
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