[EDITORIALS]North: Don’t miss opportunity

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[EDITORIALS]North: Don’t miss opportunity

In his State of the Union address, U.S. President George W. Bush reiterated the importance of resolving the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula through diplomacy. In his 40-minute speech, Mr. Bush mentioned North Korea only once. “We are working closely with governments in Asia to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions,” he said. On the other hand, he criticized Iran fiercely for sponsoring terrorism and depriving its people of freedom.
Three years ago, he called North Korea, along with Iraq and Iran, part of an “Axis of Evil.” This year’s speech showed a significant change. Many people were worried that the Bush administration might have employed a hardline policy toward North Korea during its second term, but the speech eased such concerns.
Because the United States has made clear its stance, now the ball is in North Korea’s court. The United States and other participants in the six-nation talks are agreeing to resolve the nuclear problem diplomatically and give time to the North. Pyeongyang must not miss this opportunity. It should return to the negotiation table, publicly express its intention to give up nuclear weapons and agree to a diplomatic resolution.
Pyeongyang must not think that it has time to play an unreasonable wait-and-see game, or that Washington will keep its principle of a peaceful resolution endlessly. The United States will likely stick to such a principle only when a peaceful resolution and the advance of freedom are possible.
Such a possibility can be seen in Mr. Bush’s speech. He spoke of a higher standard of freedom, the power of freedom and the peace that freedom brings, but still made clear his intent to retaliate strongly against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The international community, in addition to the United States, believes in retaliation against terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction since Sept. 11, 2001. Therefore, North Korea must learn that nuclear arms will no longer guarantee its regime’s security. Pyeongyang must not miss its chance when the atmosphere for a peaceful settlement has reached its peak. Seoul should take advantage of this good opportunity to make a breakthrough and put forth diplomatic efforts to achieve the goal of peace on the Korean Peninsula and prosperity for the Korean people.
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