[EDITORIALS]Send an envoy now

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[EDITORIALS]Send an envoy now

North Korea has declared that it will expel International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors from its Yeongbyeon nuclear site and reactivate its mothballed nuclear reprocessing facility there, putting the entire peninsula on emergency alert. Seoul called an emergency security meeting in preparation, it said, to exert all-out diplomatic pressure. And yet both Pyeongyang and Washington show no sign of wanting to resolve the situation through dialogue. North Korea says it will defend its independence and survival and the United States is making clear that it will not negotiate with Pyeongyang about broken promises. Furthermore, Washington is planning "tailored containment," a comprehensive strategy to increase the financial and political pressure on the North. If this situation continues, an armed clash could erupt.

North Korea has already announced that it would reactivate its five-megawatt reactor and reprocess spent fuel rods. The United States' plan to isolate the North is probably based on the assumption that it will take at least months for the North to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

South Koreans, who have paid little attention to the nuclear issue so far, now see a crisis loom. International financial markets are jittery over the possibility of a nuclear crisis on the peninsula. The impact on the Korean economy is growing as time goes by. Not only our national security but also our economy is hostage to the North's nuclear threat.

Under this circumstance, South Korea must be able to convey its own and the international community's concerns directly to the North Korean leader. If it does not do so, it will make public the limits of its engagement policy. Seoul must take the initiative by dispatching a special envoy to Pyeongyang.

North Korea must realize that calling the reopening of the reactor an attempt to generate electricity will not be accepted anywhere, least of all here. North Korea has pushed the situation too far for it to defend both its independence and its survival. Without giving up too much of its independence, it can ensure its survival; North Korean authorities must meet with a South Korean envoy to discuss future moves. That will save our sunshine policy and the North's regime.
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