[EDITORIALS]North policy lacks direction

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[EDITORIALS]North policy lacks direction

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has finished her tour of Japan, South Korea and China. We expected to see some cues to resolve the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, although the purpose of her tour was more of a courtesy visit after assuming the secretary of state post. Ms. Rice’s visits to the three countries, however, failed to provide a turning point on the current nuclear standoff.
In Seoul, she appeared to appease Pyeongyang, saying that North Korea is a sovereign state. But the essence of her message is that the talks on North Korea’s nuclear program cannot go on forever. We don’t know whether she had a certain deadline in mind. But her words cannot be ignored because she is the chief of the Bush administration’s foreign policy.
North Korea must not see Ms. Rice’s warning as a mere bluff. Pyeongyang must pay attention to the fact that the U.S. government and the public have been consistently saying that North Korea has no other choice than to return to the six-nation talks. Pyeongyang must imagine the consequences if the Bush administration does not accept its nuclear brinkmanship.
Until now, Seoul has been saying that it will never tolerate a nuclear North Korea and that it will play a leading role in resolving the crisis. The problem is how to apply such principles. Seoul must find out what approaches it will employ to achieve its goals with North Korea, which has been refusing to return to the talks, and the United States, which has warned that time is running out.
Over the nuclear issue, North Korea has no interest in talking with the South; it only wants to talk with the United States. The United States shows dissatisfaction over South Korea’s engagement policy toward the North, including inter-Korean economic cooperation programs. Washington has been emphasizing harmonized coordination among the five countries. Under such circumstances, we are skeptical of the weight of “Korea’s leading role.”
Seoul has also failed to provide a proper method to achieve its aim of zero tolerance for a nuclear North Korea. South Korea seems to have believed in groundless optimism that its appeasement policy will make the North abandon nuclear weapons some day. We understand Seoul’s difficult position, but we are seriously concerned that it will ran into an unexpected wall as a result of keeping an indefinite, noncommittal attitude.
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