[EDITORIALS]Trust but verify, or just trust?A group of Americans returned from a visit to North Korea yesterday. It is not yet clear what and how much they saw during their stay there. Our guess is that the North might have shown enough to give them a hint of the North’s nuclear capabilities. By showing off its nuclear development capacity to the eyes of the American visitors, the North might have aimed to gain a strategic advantage in dealing with the six-way talks or negotiation with the United States. The North’s nuclear capability and its intentions will be analyzed on the basis of the U.S. delegation’s reports. We hope that the North’s new move will lead to a smooth resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis.
It looks like the North Korean approach stems from the judgement that it will be hard to sustain the tension in has created in the international community and the confrontation that has been brewing since the disclosure of its enriched uranium development program in October 2002. It would be in line with North Korea’s style of negotiating tactics that show a willingness to end nuclear confrontation by negotiations. We can also see that North Korea wants negotiations with Japan. In their contact with Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers in Beijing last year, the North promised, “If the Japanese kidnap victims who are in Japan return to North Korea, we will return them with their family members to Japan.” All the countries involved do not want the nuclear confrontation to develop into a hot war, and the participants in the six-way talks on the North Korean nuclear issue are mulling over the North’s new proposal. It seems that the North wants negotiations on the basis of making its nuclear capability an established fact.
Now, the ball is again in our court. Should we drive the North into a corner and demand a verified end to its nuclear programs, as the United States does? Or should we return to the six-way talks accepting the North’s promise and resume negotiations? Reflecting on past experiences, we cannot expect trust-based negotiations with the North. But insisting on pressure as the only alternative would have serious consequences. Even if the North’s move is a mere gesture, it is important to meet the North and engage in a dialogue.