[EDITORIALS]Ball is in the North's court

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[EDITORIALS]Ball is in the North's court

The executive board of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization issued a joint statement yesterday, halting the heavy oil support to North Korea. Pyeong-yang is warned that it must dismantle its uranium enrichment program immediately, or the KEDO projects of supplying energy assistance and building light-water reactors will stop. The message is the international community's official response to the North's admission of its continuing nuclear program.

The South Korean government, which did its best to argue for continuation of the heavy oil supply to the North, is perplexed because the decision will put a brake on inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation. North Korea, however, first broke its promises with South Korea and the United States, and it is natural that the international community called it to account. Now, Seoul should mull over its future stance, rather than drawing up additional actions for inter-Korean relations.

Seoul must respect the KEDO decision and be careful to not take any actions that may trigger doubts among KEDO members. At this point, there is no other tool to pressure the North with than international solidarity. Abandoning this tool unilaterally will burden the next administration's relations with the North and with allies. Seoul should give up, for now, its ambition to accelerate inter-Korean business; it must slow such programs so that international society's warning will be conveyed to Pyeongyang more clearly.

Come to think of it, Seoul has given the impression that it is unconcerned with the North's military threats. Such an attitude ignores the security of the people and neglects the trust and support of the allies. The government must return to its initial North Korea policy -- engaging the North based on strong national security.

The solid coalition of the international community has been confirmed. North Korea must realize that there is no way out unless it dismantles its nuclear programs in a verifiable manner. It is North Korea's turn to answer the KEDO board's statement.
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