[EDITORIALS]Few options for the NorthOn Friday President George W. Bush of the United States brought relief to the North Korean regime, which had been worrying about a U.S. invasion. Pyeongyang has demanded a nonaggression treaty with Washington ever since the North admitted to conducting a clandestine nuclear arms program. Mr. Bush's statement that the U.S. had no intention of invading North Korea was the official U.S. response to the demand. Washington is now pressuring Pyeongyang to dismantle its uranium enrichment program.
"The United States hopes for a different future for North Korea," Mr. Bush said. The statement was issued just a day after the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization decided to halt future shipments of fuel oil aid to the North. Splitting with the approach of the Clinton administration, Mr. Bush made clear that Washington would be proactive in its relations with the North by leading the drafting of an agenda and negotiations.
The U.S. statement is also a step to stop North Korea from taking drastic measures, following the ratcheting up of pressure from the international community. North Korea might regard KEDO's decision as a nullification of the 1994 Geneva Agreed Framework and take extreme measures. In that case, North Korea could become another headache, joining Iraq.
As expressed in the Bush statement, Washington's fundamental stance has not changed; the United States has promised to seek the dismantling of the North's nuclear program through diplomacy.
Some see the statement as a tactic to earn time while the Iraq situation unfolds. Mr. Bush said Washington "seeks friendship with the people of North Korea." The statement reconfirms the U.S. position that the North Korean regime and the North Korean people will be dealt with separately. The United States has drawn a line in its final warning to the North.