[EDITORIALS]Some encouraging signsNorth Korea’s announcement that it will consider the United States’ proposal of a “multilateral nonaggression pact” is expected to have a favorable effect on the conflict over the isolated Stalinist country’s nuclear program. The U.S. government’s prompt acceptance of North Korea’s reaction reflects such optimism. The more flexibility North Korea and the United States show, the sooner a peaceful settlement will be reached.
North Korea recanted its previously consistent position that there could be no alternative to a bilateral nonaggression treaty between Pyeongyang and Washington. The “multilateral nonagression pact” proposal that U.S. President George W. Bush made at the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok is also a shift in attitude of the U.S. government, which had maintained that a binding security treaty with North Korea was impossible. These changes in attitude seem to have resulted from changes on the international political scene after the first six-party talks in Beijing on the North Korean nuclear issue, and the consensus formed between Seoul and Washington at the recent South Korea-U.S. summit. These changes are also boosted by the principle of keeping a common stance among the participatants in the six-way talks.
It is true that these changes have yet to turn into anything substantial. But they are very promising nonetheless, and all parties in the six-way talks should try to use them to achieve actual progress. The meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and China’s Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, in Pyeongyang Wednesday could be the first step. China must persuade North Korea that its insistence on isolating itself will only bring further pain, and encourage it to show more flexibility.
Seoul must also strengthen consultations with the United States and Japan to turn the changes into a solution. Further cooperation with China and Russia is also needed. Efforts to open another round of six-way talks should be made. The six parties should not let this golden opportunity pass.