[EDITORIALS]Keep a careful eye on NorthThe U.S. State Department has confirmed that North Korean officials have told the U.S. government of their country’s intention to return to the six-party nuclear disarmament talks. According to a U.S. source, North Korea did not bring up conditions such as “giving up hostile U.S. policies toward North Korea,” which the North earlier attached as a precondition for its participation in the talks. We see hope increasing for the resumption of the talks, which have been stalled for the past year.
However, we had better watch a little longer to find whether the meeting will actually resume. That is because the North did not mention a date for its return to the table. Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said that until a date was fixed and all participants took seats, the six-party talks were still halted.
A Korean official also said, “We should have a long-term view.” This means that the North Korean proposal this time is not that convincing. In short, Seoul suspects it a North Korean tactic to try to evade pressure from the international community by showing “an intention to return to talks,” with an attempt to strike another deal later over “the timing of a return.” Considering that the North has often used such tactics, there is enough reason for Seoul and Washington to worry.
Still, what is important at this time, when tension is rising on the Korean Peninsula over the North Korea nuclear problem, is that the nuclear issue is resolved peacefully through the six-party talks. Since North Korea has expressed its intention to return to negotiations, it is necessary to demonstrate dexterity in handling the situation wisely. For South Korea and the United States, the utmost priority should be on seeing that the talks take place. They must be thoroughly prepared and accommodate the North’s proposal in a bigger framework.
If North Korea resorts to delaying tactics and makes absurd demands, they should be rejected. However, we shouldn’t give the North an abrupt excuse to withdraw its intention to return to the talks. It is necessary to handle a slippery counterpart with care. We hope that the North will not commit the mistake of losing everything by breaking its word, since it has let the world know of its intention to come back to negotiations. North Korea should keep in mind there is no country in the world that will allow it to develop nuclear weapons and return to the six-party talks immediately.