[EDITORIALS]North's life-or-death choiceNorth Korea has declared its intention to pull out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The decision, though shocking, was hardly unexpected, considering how Pyeongyang has been developing the situation. North Korea seems to be bent on showing Washington its intention to play the brinkmanship game to the extreme verge.
North Korea's message is that it will make a life-or-death choice unless the United States comes up with a concrete assurance to guarantee its regime's security. The declaration means that North Korea wants to go back to the state before it froze its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program, not to mention before its recently disclosed clandestine uranium-enrichment program. North Korea is saying that it wants a new framework, nullifying the 1994 Geneva Agreed Framework between it and Washington. If Washington's gesture in entering talks is unsatisfactory, Pyeongyang is signaling that it will move to the next step -- reprocessing the spent fuel rods and beginning nuclear weapons development.
North Korea still insists that it has no intention of actually developing nuclear weapons while maximizing its military pressure on the United States. Pyeongyang said it would allow U.S. inspection of its nuclear facilities if Washington stops its oppressive policy toward the North. Such points strongly signal that Pyeongyang wants to resolve the situation peacefully. Pyeongyang, pressured by the increasing demands of the international community, is trying its best to make the nuclear issue a bilateral U.S.-North Korea matter in order to pressure Washington into negotiations.
North Korea is fighting with its back to the wall. How the United States will respond will determine the further development of the situation. The international community, South Korea and China in particular, are perplexed because they have been trying hard to create a mood for talks between Washington and Pyeongyang. The North's declaration to bolt from the treaty is a drastic and abrupt move, throwing the international community's doves into confusion. North Korea must reconsider its decision to break away from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
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