[EDITORIALS]North Korea and U.S. Should Talk

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[EDITORIALS]North Korea and U.S. Should Talk

U.S. President George W. Bush's warning to Pyeongyang on its alleged development and sales of weapons of mass destruction is the latest in a string of strongly-worded warnings from American politicians. This hardening of the stance against the North differs from the pre-Sept. 11 skepticism. North Korea continues to criticize South Korea for the stalemate in inter-Korean relations and the South's heightened security alert in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States. Yesterday, North Korean soldiers fired shots in the demilitarized zone for the first time in almost three and a half years. This incident is part of a series of worrying developments that are raising tension on the Korean Peninsula as the war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan goes on.

Mr. Bush made the remark on North Korea as he was talking about Iraq. With American public and political opinion not favoring an expansion of the war against terrorism, the United States does not seem poised to take action against North Korea. However, Mr. Bush's remarks seem to signal that Washington is planning stronger measures against countries on its list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

North Korea has taken some positive steps, including its recent decision to sign two international treaties on terrorism. The problem is that the U.S. administration demands further action, such as a halt to the North's alleged production of weapons of mass destruction and appropriate verification. North Korea is expected to resist such requests. Thus, relations between Pyeongyang and Washington can only become more entangled, leading to heightened tension between the two Koreas.

To avert a crisis over the North's suspected nuclear weapons like the one in 1994, during which the North threatened to turn Seoul into a "sea of fire," we urge the United States and North Korea to enter a new dialogue. The United States should not drive North Korea into a corner with strong words or tactics. North Korea, still under international suspicion over its arms development, should boldly reopen talks with the United States as well as put back on track inter-Korean dialogue. That is the only way to bring about stability for the North Korean regime and ease tension on the Korean Peninsula.
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