[EDITORIALS]North Korea at fork in roadThe presidents of South Korea and the United States promised firm cooperation on the North Korea nuclear issue. That agreement is probably a great shock to North Korea, whose strategy is to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington. The North has tried to benefit from the nuclear standoff, but these ambitions were swept away by the meeting between President Roh Moo-hyun and President George W. Bush. North Korea’s reaction to this development will deeply affect the future of its government.
It is generally predicted that the North will directly address the agreement between the two presidents. Pyeongyang probably expected Mr. Roh not to challenge Mr. Bush’s stern North Korea policy, but it surely did expect Mr. Roh to convince the U.S. president on cooperation between the two Koreas. Mr. Roh made clear his intentions throughout his visit to the United States, disappointing the North. Furthermore, the agreement between Mr. Bush and Mr. Roh is cornering Pyeongyang even further.
Now, the ball is in North Korea’s court. And we believe this can be an opportunity for the North. North Korea will probably feel more and more at risk as South Korea and the United States solidify their bonding. Pyeongyang may want to try to split Seoul and Washington again by increasing its threats. But such a strategy would bring more support for the United States, driving the North faster toward catastrophe. Pyeongyang must think about the situation that prompted Mr. Roh to accept that the military option can help resolve the nuclear issue.
North Korea must pay attention to the new environment in which it can now make an effort for a practical policy. Mr. Bush has promised measures to save the North Korean government if only the nuclear situation is resolved. It would be natural for Pyeongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions in the interest of its people. Pyeongyang’s neighbors have already made clear that they will not tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea. North Korea is already in a helpless isolation. If it misses this opportunity, it will bring greater misfortune on itself.