[EDITORIALS]North Korea at crossroads

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[EDITORIALS]North Korea at crossroads

Kim Jong-il, the North Korean military commission chairman, is standing at a crossroads: He can lead North Korea forward or leave it in stagnation. The course of action Mr. Kim will take will have enormous impact not only on North Korea's economic recovery, but also on security and peace on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea should recognize the importance of the choice, review bilateral issues calmly and take a forward-looking position toward Japan, discarding unnecessary old claims while putting forward reasonable demands.

The survival and prosperity of North Korea depends largely on normalizing relations with the United States. Mr. Kim's meeting with the Japanese prime minister apparently aims at getting economic aid from Japan. But he also intends to use it as a stepping stone for a summit with George W. Bush. The North Korean intention will be accomplishable if the Japan-North Korea summit proves a success. For that, the North should make clear-cut decisions on pending issues such as handing over the hijackers of the Yodo jetliner and the Japanese citizens kidnapped to the North. We presume that the North has the solution, since it invited the Japanese prime minister to Pyeongyang.

Furthermore, Mr. Kim should proclaim that he will pursue peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia through dialogue and secure international confidence in his words. He should respond with sincerity to the suspicions that North Korea is involved in developing and exporting weapons of mass destruction. He should also make clear his determination to abide by his words. Then the Western world will relax its suspicion of North Korea and make it possible for the North to get necessary international aid and economic cooperation. We emphasize the changes in North Korea's attitude because it is the North which is in need of international help. We are also of the opinion that the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula will be guaranteed when the North Korean economy is restored through international aid. We hope the North will use the meeting with Japan to change its bad image of untrustworthiness to a completely new one.

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