[EDITORIALS]Washington Is the Linchpin

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[EDITORIALS]Washington Is the Linchpin

The view that an active North Korea policy by the United States is necessary to break the deadlock in inter-Korean relations that developed since the inauguration of U.S. President George W. Bush, is expanding. The letter addressed to Mr. Bush and signed by about 120 religious leaders, including Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan, Song Wol-joo, president-emeritus of the Korean Buddhist Chogye Order, and Reverend Kang Won-yong, as well as other prominent people from Korean society, will hopely serve as a basis for the policy currently under review by the Bush administration.

Mr. Bush himself had expressed support for President Kim Dae-jung's engagement policy toward the North, an acknowledgement of South Korea's leadership in the negotiations with Pyongyang and Washington's intention to abide by the 1994 Geneva Agreement, during the summit talks with Mr. Kim in March. However, the U.S. leadership should squarely understand that unnecessarily instigating the North could hamper the resolution of problems on the Korean peninsula and obstruct the advancement of inter-Korean relations as suggested in the letter. North Korea's National Defense Commission chairman, Kim Jong-il, recently made it clear to the Swedish prime minister, Goeran Persson, that the U.S. attitude led to the freeze in inter-Korean talks.

Although the North should show a more open attitude to the South and the United States, Washington should also take a more flexible approach and definitely adhere to agreed items. The United States should heed the recommendations in the letter, which are in accord with U.S. national interests. It should, therefore, conclude its review of North Korea policies as early as possible and resume negotiations with the North on its missile program instead of proposing the replacement of light-water reactors with thermal power plants that contradict the agreement.

The United States should understand that such measures and more active means to bolster North's participation in the international community would guarantee the effective development of inter-Korean dialogue.

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