[EDITORIALS]Time to talk againNorth Korea announced officially yesterday that it would reactivate its nuclear program in retaliation for the U.S.-led suspension last month of fuel oil supplies. The announcement practically nullifies the 1994 Geneva Agreed Framework between North Korea and the United States. Tension on the Korean Peninsula must not escalate any further. North Korea must reverse its decision; Washington and Pyeongyang should resume dialogue immediately to resolve this crisis.
The statement by a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman is the North's strongest possible measure to counter the suspension of fuel oil supplies. Such a stern measure by the North was anticipated after the energy supply was suspended. The North, however, seemed to have actually taken the step as a reaction to the U.S. interception of the North Korean vessel on the high seas, which was carrying missile cargo.
Carefully reading North Korea's statement, Pyeongyang does not seem to want to scrap the Geneva Agreed Framework immediately. Between the lines, Pyeongyang is making a strong demand for talks with Washington. North Korea also argued that it never admitted to a U.S. envoy visiting Pyeongyang last October that it had continued its nuclear program.
Pyeongyang argues that Washington stopped the fuel oil supply unilaterally, thus the United States should be held responsible for the deteriorating situation. North Korea, furthermore, ended its statement with the message that freezing its nuclear program again solely depends on the decision by the United States, signaling it wishes to begin dialogue.
The problem lies with whether the Bush administration will accept Pyeongyang's threatening invitation. Taking into account the Bush administration's attitude on such matters, we do not think Washington will comply with the North's demands willingly. The confrontation between Washington and Pyeongyang is also likely to continue. Seoul, therefore, must put forth its best efforts to induce the two countries to meet at the negotiation table. South Korea should also cooperate with China and Russia in dealing with North Korea.