[EDITORIALS]Rice delivers positive attitudeDuring her visit to Seoul, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called North Korea a “sovereign state” and made clear that the United States has no intention of invading or attacking Pyeongyang. In addition, she said that if the six-party talks are resumed, bilateral talks could take place within the six-party framework, and all issues of interest can be discussed with the North.
Ms. Rice added that together with the other participants, a multilateral security assurance can be provided. Ms. Rice’s remarks seem to be somewhat different from the overall atmosphere in which we saw Washington employing pressure on the North since the beginning of the second Bush administration. The secretary’s remarks are especially noteworthy as they came from the very person who called Pyeongyang an “outpost of tyranny” in her Senate confirmation hearing in January. Since the Bush administration came to power, Washington has referred to the North as a regime that needs to be expelled from the world while it also called Pyeongyang part of the “axis of evil.” Until recently, North Korea was pegged as a place needing freedom while hardliners openly discussed the possibility of launching a pre-emptive strike.
Thus, there are views regarding Ms. Rice’s remarks that they are some sort of signal that U.S. policy is now focusing on dialogue instead of pressure. Some even go as far as saying that the remarks are an indirect acknowledgement on part of the United States of accepting North Korea’s regime and its system. We still have to see what it really means but let’s hope that the remarks by Ms. Rice are a reflection by the United States indicating its willingness to be flexible. Furthermore, we hope that her remarks will act as a catalyst, creating some momentum for the stalled six-party talks.
Now is a time when participants, including our government, can use the change in U.S. attitude as a breakthrough to actively urge North Korea to come back to the negotiation table. For North Korea, it’s time to return to the talks if it wants tangible benefits. The current change is the result of efforts by neighboring countries. If North Korea continues to stall the talks, voices urging stronger action will only get louder. North Korea needs to realize that the patience of the neighboring countries has reached a limit. We strongly urge North Korea to return to the six-party talks as soon as possible.