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[EDITORIALS]Welcome breakthrough

The United States is sending positive signals on what will be the key to resolving the North Korean nuclear problem ― that, contrary to Pyeongyang’ fears, it will not invade North Korea. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that “there are ways that Congress can take note” of a written assurance to that effect if it is drawn up, suggesting that there is a serious willingness to consider North Korea’s security concerns as the United States enters six-country talks. He also said that there should be ways to “capture assurances to the North Koreans” from not only the United States but from other parties in the region. Considering the urgency of the issue and U.S. insistence on a single line of logic in the past, the apparent shift is a welcome development.
This new position had already been suggested on Feb. 6 by the chairman of the U.S. Senate foreign relations committee, Richard Lugar, and a member of the committee, Jay Rockefeller, during a policy forum hosted by the JoongAng Ilbo and the Washington Post in Washington. If the United States offered not only to address North Korea’s concern about a preemptive strike by the United States but also to guarantee North Korea’s regime becomes a reality, it would bring about a breakthrough in the resolution of the issue.
But the proposal is no doubt predicated on a complete abandonment of nuclear programs by North Korea. And unlike during the negotiations for the 1994 Agreed Framework, the United States is expected to present both the offer and its demands in a comprehensive package. That new approach to the process seems to result from considerations of the urgency of the issue, its wide-reaching impact on the geopolitics of the East Asian region and also the political calendar in the United States.
The resolution of the North Korean nuclear problem should not hinge on whether the process is by a “road map" as proposed by South Korea or through a comprehensive package. Even a package has to be implemented in steps. Now that the United States is showing flexibility on one of the hardest aspects of the problem, South Korea and other countries must do their parts.

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