[EDITORIALS]Golden opportunity for North

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[EDITORIALS]Golden opportunity for North

Unlike in the past, the third round of the six-way talks is heading in a positive direction. On the first day of the talks, both the United States and North Korea put detailed negotiation proposals on the table.
The United States has put forth a proposal that takes a step backward from its previously hard-line stance, and so expectations have been high. Let’s hope that this encouraging news precedes a new opportunity to solve the North Korean nuclear crisis.
Until now, the United States’ position was that North Korea had to not only halt its production of weapons-grade uranium but also get rid of existing stockpiles. This time, the United States has offered not only economic aid but also a security guarantee if the North promises to dispose of all its nuclear material.
North Korea also offered detailed plans on how it would halt production of nuclear material and how this could be verified. Both sides’ apparent willingness to negotiate is very encouraging.
Nevertheless, the question would be whether any real solutions can be reached. There are more than a few issues on which both sides have found it hard to compromise. The biggest problem is that both sides don’t trust each other, and it’s one that has no solution in sight.
The change of the United States’ stance seems to be an effort by the Bush administration to answer the Democratic Party critics who have accused President George W. Bush of doing nothing about the North’s nuclear problem.
It’s an election year, after all, and the Democrats could use the administration’s inaction as a campaign issue. As a result, the North Koreans might fear that an agreement reached now could be annulled if Mr. Bush is re-elected in November.
Also, to include weapons-grade uranium in the negotiations will be very hard for North Korea. Still, it cannot let this golden opportunity slip away.
The new offer by the United States is something North Korea can accept. If it chooses to refuse the offer, there is a possibility that the United States will adopt its old stance or even become more hardline. That would be a very bad situation. Let’s hope that North Korea adopts a willingness to act and that the United States maintains flexibility in the talks.
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