[EDITORIALS]Put pressure on North, U.S.South Korea, Japan and the United States have worked out a joint proposal in anticipation of six-way talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Its wording was reportedly agreed to in an effort to avoid a direct clash between the United States, which wants the North to renounce its nuclear program first, and the North, which wants Washington to issue security assurances simultaneously with that renunciation. Further negotiations between the North and China will determine whether a second round of the six-way talks, begun in Beijing in August, will happen. South Korea and China have strived to open a second round before the end of the year, but for North Korea, which is engaged in an all-or-nothing struggle for its regime, timing would seem to be of secondary importance.
Yet it is undesirable that we should rely indefinitely on informal negotiations to solve the North Korean issue, which is shaking the peace and stability not only of the Korean Peninsula but all of Northeast Asia.
The main sticking point is the difference of opinion between the North and the United States. Within the U.S. government, there is an opinion that calls for regime change in the North to solve the North Korean nuclear problem fundamentally. Such a view will make it hard for the North to give up its nuclear ambitions.
North Korea should realize how sensitive the United States is to the issue of ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction, as it wages a war against terrorism at great cost following the Sept. 11 attacks. At the same time, the other parties to the talks should understand how grave it would be if the talks collapsed and North Korea tried to aggravate the situation. Diplomatic pressure from the sidelines should be exerted on both the North and the United States.
Should the United States economize its moves in calculation of its presidential election next November, and should the North start making stubborn demands, the situation would worsen and there would be no winners. At present, there is no better window to a peaceable solution than the six-way talks. The participants should not blow this chance.