[EDITORIALS]North Korean endgameStrange signals come from the United States. Following President Bush’s proposal for stronger international cooperation in interdicting shipments of weapons of mass destruction, Undersecretary of State John Bolton has told the U.S. Congress that negotiations on this initiative have begun with allies. This could indicate that the United States now is likely to turn to sanctions against North Korea. Or that the United States has nearly reached the limit of its patience with Pyeongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
The U.S. government has repeatedly told North Korea that it would not reward it for bad behavior. Mr. Bolton said that Washington will explore North Korea’s “bold approach” to ameliorating relations only when Pyeongyang freezes its nuclear development. Should the North stand firm, the United States seems determined to impose sanctions against it. It has also refused another three-way talk with North Korea and China, hinting that it prefers the idea of sanctions and an enforced crackdown on shipments of weapons of mass destruction.
Ultimately, the United States will not rule out military action. Recently, U.S. forces in Korea announced a major reinforcement of their operation. The U.S. 2d Infantry Division is to move south of the Han River. These changes seem to indicate that the United States is leaving all possibilities open. The Bush administration has stepped up diplomacy with China and Russia to lay the grounds for sanctions against North Korea. The numerous shifts in U.S. policy leave some of us fearing a Korean crisis in the fall.
Only North Korea can prevent such a cata-strophe. Pyeongyang must face reality: Even its only semi-ally China has started to turn its back. By freezing its nuclear program, North Korea could not only receive food aid from South Korea, the United States and Japan; it would also receive great help to overcome its poverty. There is even talk of a guarantee of the continuity of the Pyeongyang regime in the manner of Ukraine. Seoul must not leave the North Koreans guessing. We must make it clear that our engagement policy has a limit ―and that this limit is fast approaching.