[EDITORIALS]Appoint an envoy to North

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[EDITORIALS]Appoint an envoy to North

North Korea once more is walking a thin line. The International Atomic Energy Agency said that North Korea on Saturday cut most of the seals and impeded the functioning of surveillance equipment installed at the 5-megawatt reactor at Yeongbyeon.

The act was forecast on Dec. 12 when North Korea, citing the United States' breach of the 1994 Geneva agreement -- by suspending the supply of heating oil -- notified the international nuclear agency that it was reactivating its mothballed nuclear facilities.

We have firmly opposed North Korea's nuclear development, and do so based on the spirit of the North Korea-U.S. agreement, the inter-Korean anti-nuclear declaration and the North-South Joint Declaration of June 15, 2000, between the heads of the two Koreas.

With nuclear weapons, North Korea threatens the safety and existence of the Korean people and stands as an obstacle to the cooperation and support of the international community, which wants very much to guarantee co-existence and prosperity for South and North Koreas.

We greatly regret North Korea's resumption of its dormant nuclear programs, for by doing so the North betrays all expectations we held.

We also cannot agree with Pyeongyang's ambivalence about confining dialogue with South Korea to the areas that the North can take practical economic interest in while blocking South Korea's participation in the issues related to nuclear programs. The North obviously takes this course because it wants to talk to Washington and address the nuclear issues, which can potentially be a threat to the existence of the peninsula.

North Korea and Washington appear to be headed for a collision without concessions, for both sides are taking stances that suggest they want the other to make the first move for resolution. It is time for South Korea to step into the matter. Seoul has stressed the importance of cooperation among South Korea, the United States and Japan. Seoul also has said that the only way to resolve this crisis is through placing diplomatic pressure on Pyeongyang, with the cooperation of countries that North Korea admires, such as China and Russia. It has so far been considered the best resolution, and for the future we must utilize various windows of diplomacy. But we also need to contemplate what we can do under the premise of peacefully resolving nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula and of preventing the possibility of a major military confrontation on the peninsula.

We propose President Kim Dae-jung and President-elect Roh Moo-hyun nominate a special envoy to handle North Korean nuclear issues as a measure to seek a breakthrough in the current situation.

The 60 days until the inauguration is too long a period to leave North Korean nuclear issues untouched. Without a serious effort to find a way to address those issues, the tension between North and South Korea might lead to a standoff that will prove disastrous to all Koreans.

While Washington and Pyeongyang do not want a war, they are not becoming friendlier, either. South Korea must force a breakthrough without forcing either side to lose face. The first piece of business that President Kim and Mr. Roh must do is to appoint a special envoy to North Korea.

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