[EDITORIALS]In defense of our interests

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[EDITORIALS]In defense of our interests

A major clash is looming because of the tension created by North Korea's nuclear ambitions. This is an issue that has gone beyond a diplomatic conflict between North Korea and the United States to become a question of South Korea's survival and well-being. If the North and the United States actually go to war, the South will suffer the most damage of the three. That is the reason why we have to move actively and urgently to resolve the matter.

But the administration has displayed an obvious lack of urgency in the two months since the North's ongoing nuclear program was revealed, as if it were somebody else' s business. The sluggishness in coming up with a substantive response is apparently the result of several factors, including miscalculations about Pyeongyang's intentions and Washington's response, the Dec. 19 presidential election in the South and the sharp rise in anti-American sentiment following the accidental deaths of two schoolgirls during a U.S. military training exercise. The upshot is that the North is on the verge of fully restarting its nuclear program and Washington is suggesting the possibility of a military response.

Some people here say they think a nuclear capability in the North would be "a national asset." But possession of nuclear weapons by the North would likely trigger rearmament in Japan, which would in turn provoke China. The result would be an escalation of the arms race in East Asia, and South Korea would not be exempt. That scenario would be as unacceptable to the United States as the trigger, a North Korea with nuclear weapons. Military tension in the region would only hurt the Korean Peninsula.

The government must show its determination to avoid another nuclear crisis and to work for a nuclear-free peninsula. No option should be left untested in trying to mediate between Washington and Pyeongyang. A nonpartisan response that reflects a national consensus is needed now. Only then could there be hope that Washington and Pyeongyang would stop considering the South as a hostage or a victim to serve their goals. A nonpartisan delegation must go to Washington, Pyeongyang, Beijing and Moscow to talk and talk and talk some more.
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