[EDITORIALS]A critical choice for Seoul

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[EDITORIALS]A critical choice for Seoul

“We are at a critical stage in terms of resolving the North Korean nuclear issue peacefully and through diplomatic means,” Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said yesterday. “We are mulling over all possible options.”
We feel lost because the government has been saying that Pyongyang was highly likely to return to the six-nation talks on its nuclear program and that it was not time to talk about referring the matter to the UN Security Council. Seoul has been optimistic about the talks, but suddenly changed its tack, saying that the situation is serious.
The government must provide an accurate explanation of the current situation and what it plans to do about it. When North Korea declared in February that it was a nuclear-armed state, the United States and the rest of the international community showed concern. Only Seoul downplayed the significance of the statement. Since then, North Korea repeatedly showed its willingness to make sure that it possesses nuclear arms. Seoul, however, told Pyongyang that economic cooperation would continue, rather than saying a firm “no.”
North Korea test-fired a missile a few days ago, and Seoul again downplayed the significance. Despite such an attitude, the government suddenly changed its tone, talking about “a critical stage.” It must state publicly if its handling of the situation until now has been wrong, or if there was an incident of a special nature that the people have not yet been informed about. Only then will the people be prepared.
Until now, Seoul repeatedly said it would show zero tolerance for a nuclear-armed North Korea, but failed to present measures on what it would do if the North persists in keeping its nuclear weapons. When Washington wanted to refer the matter to the UN Security Council, Seoul stopped it, saying that the matter should be resolved peacefully.
It is becoming clearer, however, that North Korea does not agree to a peaceful resolution.
The government must tell the public of its selection. There are only two options. It can choose to persist in an appeasement policy, which is destined to fail, and allow North Korea to complete its nuclear arms capability. Or it can choose to show its intention to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear arms aspirations by forcible means.
Seoul also has to choose if it wants to play the role of mediator for Pyongyang, or if it will put pressure on the North by coordinating its moves with the United States.
Time is running out. After North Korea conducts a nuclear test, it will officially become nuclear armed. Then, we will have to live with a nuclear-armed North Korea on the same peninsula.
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