[EDITORIALS]Talks outcome a good start

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[EDITORIALS]Talks outcome a good start

The Wednesday summit between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and U.S. President George W. Bush cleared, for the time being, the political instability on the Korean Peninsula that had been heightened by Mr. Bush's labeling of North Korea as part of an "axis of evil." "We have no intention of invading North Korea. South Korea has no intention of attacking North Korea, nor does America," Mr. Bush said, urging Pyeongyang to accept its offer of unconditional talks. The North should indeed resume dialogue immediately in order to stabilize the peninsula's affairs.

At the Kim-Bush meeting, the two leaders agreed that affairs on the peninsula are potentially explosive and unpredictable. Therefore, the two presidents agreed to try to resolve peacefully problems associated with North Korea's missiles and weapons of mass destruction through talks based on strengthened ties between Seoul and Washington. Mr. Bush checked his instinct toward more stern words that could anger the North, easing concerns of the Korean government and all Koreans.

Before visiting Seoul, Mr. Bush strongly demanded that the North withdraw its conventional weapons from the border. Despite that statement, Mr. Bush briefly commented after the summit that the North's conventional weapons are threats to the South, hinting at his intention to relieve South Koreans' worries that the United States would focus on them in its strategy. Mr. Kim and Mr. Bush reportedly agreed that Washington would be responsible for settling the problem of North Korea's exports of weapons and missiles; the two leaders had no technical discussions about Pyeongyang's conventional weapons. That outcome shows that the two presidents agreed that North Korea's conventional weapons are an inter-Korean issue that cannot be resolved quickly.

It is notable that the two leaders cleared away fears of instability on the peninsula and pressured the North to come to the negotiating table. Mr. Kim's persuasive explanation of inter-Korean affairs and his understanding of Mr. Bush's global strategy must have played an important role in making the summit a success. Mr. Bush must have felt uneasy that his hard-line stance toward the North had fueled mounting anti-American sentiment in the South and deepened insecurity in the East Asian region.

Pyeongyang should analyze and react to the message from the Kim-Bush summit levelheadedly. It should understand that Mr. Bush's skepticism toward the North Korean regime is unchanged despite his support for Mr. Kim's sunshine policy to engage the North. The North may feel uncomfortable and irritated by Mr. Bush's attitude of dealing separately with the North Korean regime and its people.

Pyeongyang should resume talks with Washington to clear up Washington's doubts and distrust of Kim Jong-il and his regime. During his visit to Seoul, Mr. Bush never spoke about what Washington would offer the North in return for resuming talks. However, he promised humanitarian food aid despite his harsh criticism. Pyeongyang should keep its eye on that promise. Mr. Bush hinted that political and economic support would follow once a basis of peaceful resolution of issues between the North and the United States is established.

President Kim should not be satisfied with putting out this fire; the government should reinforce its alliance with Washington and develop a stable system to harmonize its North Korea policy with the Bush administration. Seoul should come up with measures to persuade the North to start talking.
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