[EDITORIALS]Seoul formula right choiceNegotiations with North Korea have not been able to begin because of controversy over whether the talks should involve the communist country’s neighbors instead of being negotiations between Pyeongyang and Washington. Since the North’s nuclear weapons program became an international issue in October, the international community, including the United States, has agreed to a peaceful resolution of the crisis, seeking to solve the issue through diplomacy. But Washington and Pyeongyang have been engaged in a war of nerves over how the talks should be held. So far, Pyeongyang has demanded direct dialogue with Washington, whereas the United States has preferred a multilateral approach, involving the North’s neighbors and the United Nations Security Council.
The South Korean government has maintained that the North Korea issue can be settled only by North Korea and the United States. Such an argument might have caused the misunderstanding that Seoul was on Pyeongyang’s side.
For South Korea, which is directly affected by the North’s nuclear programs, resolution of the issue is so urgent that there is no time for debate over how the talks are held. In reality, advocating direct dialogue between Pyeongyang and Washington, which the United States refuses to accept, has proved ineffective. Considering that the U.S. government plans to go it alone with a war with Iraq, without seeking United Nations approval, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is too urgent to insist on direct dialogue.
Therefore, we believe that Seoul made a realistic decision when it changed its position to support U.S.-North Korea dialogue within the framework of a multilateral approach. What the South Korean government has to do now is make the best use of the dialogue channels, which it has established through decades of inter-Korean talks, to persuade Pyeongyang to drop its nuclear plans. Seoul should try to bring Pyeongyang and Washington to the negotiating table. By doing so, Seoul will clear itself of Washington’s impression that the South Korean government is indifferent to the issue.