[EDITORIALS]Time to step carefully

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[EDITORIALS]Time to step carefully

The government held a foreign affairs and security ministerial meeting yesterday. The timing seems late, considering the worries that South Koreans have about the North Korean nuclear crisis.

President Kim Dae-jung ordered his ministers to "take a lead in resolving the North's nuclear issues." Seoul pledged to collaborate with the United States and Japan as well as with China and Russia to resolve the crisis peacefully.

The ministers also expressed intentions to persuade North Korea through inter-Korean dialogue channels. We agree with the government's principle and approach. However, the government must be cautious about many things, including sending an envoy for President-elect Roh Moo-hyun.

Pyeongyang and Washington have shown little concern over Seoul's stance. The North wants to gain economic benefits from Seoul while discussing nuclear issues with Washington only. The United States suspects that the North is trying to break apart the alliance between Seoul and Washington by using nuclear threats. Washington also believes that the spread of anti-Americanism in South Korea is giving the North an excuse.

Under this situation, our government's efforts to play the role of mediator between the two countries may be ignored by both sides. Thus, the government must step prudently. Seoul must not lose its balance trying to walk between the interests of the two Koreas and the interests of our people.

That Seoul seems to believe that the United States will not consider a military option under any circumstances and its lukewarm attitude toward an important issue that will decide the future of the peninsula's security are heightening the people's uneasiness and the international community's concerns.

It is time for Seoul to draw up a feasible scenario to resolve this crisis and to earn the support of ally nations. That is the first step in tackling the North Korean nuclear crisis -- and that is the first mission for the planned envoy of President-elect Roh.

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