[EDITORIALS]Your move, Pyeongyang

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[EDITORIALS]Your move, Pyeongyang

North Korea has experienced a flurry of changes recently, starting with the introduction of some market functions in its economy, then resolving pending issues with Japan through a summit meeting. More recently, the North decided to designate Sinuiju as a special economic zone modeled after Hong Kong. We should provide a reasonable response to such changes, keeping close watch on where the North is going and how the changes may affect the balance of the Korean Peninsula.

But first, the reasons for these changes must be understood. The reform is no doubt a gamble on Pyeongyang's part, but for the North there really was not much choice. Whether Pyeongyang admits it or not, the changes represent a step in the direction of a more market- and currency-based economy. It is clearly a part of national reconstruction efforts that are based significantly on opening itself to the world.

The gesture of openness displayed toward Japan might have been designed to win economic aid from Japan, but it also represents a change of course in the effort to improve relations with the United States. Pyeongyang must have realized by now that there is a limit to the strategy of wooing Washington first to win aid from Seoul and Tokyo. It is, of course, the result of what had been a discouraging policy undertaken by the U.S. administration.

We must look to positive elements in the North's decision and find a way to help Pyeongyang in the endeavor. But in doing so, Seoul must clearly set apart what the current administration can do from what it cannot.

Seoul must not delve into what should be the job of the next administration. And at the same time it must help Pyeongyang realize that it is through joining the international community that it can develop the country and bring prosperity to its people.

The government must also demand substantial effort by the North to clear up lingering questions about its past activities against the South and its position on weapons of mass destruction.

But above all, Pyeongyang needs to understand that improving relations with Washington is an important prerequisite to maximizing the result of its recent reform moves. There is an opportunity there for Seoul's diplomacy to offer a balanced mediation.

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