[EDITORIALS]Time for dialoguePresident George W. Bush said the United States will resolve the North Korean nuclear issue by diplomatic and peaceful means; the United States does not yet regard the current situation as a crisis. Washington also made clear its intention to continue its food assistance to the North. The basis of the U.S. policy for handling North Korea's nuclear ambitions seems to be softening. That is a positive step to resolve the situation. If Washington plans to seek a resolution in which Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing and Moscow can join, it must take into account some important points.
First, the United States must be extremely careful when talking about a hardline policy, including military action. If Washington decides to employ such measures, it will face difficulty in gaining support by the Korean Peninsula's neighbors. Thus, the United States must do its best to build a bloc of allies in order to press the North diplomatically. The best way is to press Pyeongyang in dialogue.
Second, the United States must exercise flexibility as a civilized nation, rather than trying to save face as a global superpower. The United States sees negotiations with the North as a reward for Pyeongyang's wrongdoing, shutting off all communications. That is too strict an application of ethics -- such a policy cannot win the support of the international community. After all, diplomatic resolutions are based on dialogue and negotiations. By talking to Pyeongyang, Washington will be able to find points of compromise between the U.S. demand that Pyeongyang give up its nuclear weapons program and the North Korean demand for a nonaggression treaty.
Last, the United States must understand the special meaning of Kim Jong-il to the North Korean people. North Korea is a unique society -- its people are particularly sensitive to criticism of their leader. Washington, unfortunately, must understand that the more it criticizes Mr. Kim, the worse the situation becomes. If Seoul and Washington's top priority is a nuclear weapons-free peninsula, then there is no need to worsen the matter by poking at lesser issues.