[EDITORIALS]A nod from the NorthAs the Iraq war nears its end, North Korea gave its first suggestion over the weekend that it might accept multilateral dialogue to resolve the nuclear issue. Although the statement was qualified, it is good that the North, after insisting on direct bilateral talks with the United States, is showing signs of change. The U.S. government quickly responded, saying it would be following up on the statement through diplomatic channels. There is enough to give optimism for progress.
The statement followed relative silence from the North and an absence of provocative actions during the Iraq war. It came immediately after the effective date last Thursday of Pyeongyang’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. We welcome the statement as a positive sign that obviously was preceded by considerable thought.
There are countless issues to be dealt with before the hint of change can be translated into actual actions ― not least, the seemingly large differences between Pyeongyang and Washington. But the expression of a possible acceptance of multilateral dialogue is significant, despite the absence of an explanation of what specifically the North wants from the United States that would constitute “a dramatic shift in its policy toward North Korea.”
North Korea must learn from Iraq that weapons of mass destruction and isolationism will not guarantee the survival of its regime. It must also accept the international community’s mediation efforts. It should take advantage of the willingness of neighboring countries to help the process. The North must accept the effort to keep the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free and give up its plan to develop weapons of mass destruction. Only then will the international community be willing to recognize the North Korean regime. It must also recognize that insistence on possessing nuclear weapons will only fuel instability on the Korean Peninsula and threaten the survival of the Korean people.
Seoul must step up diplomatic efforts to build on the positive signs from the North. President Roh Moo-hyun’s urging that the North give up its nuclear ambition was appropriate and timely. We urge the United States to take advantage of the opportunity and begin establishing a framework for dialogue.