[EDITORIALS]The talks’ steady progress

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[EDITORIALS]The talks’ steady progress

The fourth round of the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs has been underway for a week now. So far, no great strides have been made, but we feel there has been steady progress. The third round last year gave rise to pessimisim, because it failed to produce a joint statement. This time, a joint agreement on a larger scale is being predicted.
Actually, the current round is showing a new vitality in bilateral meetings, not just between the United States and North Korea, and in in-depth discussions among a small group of working-level experts. The United States, which once refused to sit down with the North, had done so five times as of Saturday, each time for more than two hours. It seems that Washington recognizes the North as a negotiating partner. North Korea is also showing sincerity, a change from its past unconditional retorts and one-sided insistence.
The change in format, of course, does not in itself mean there will be a practical solution. But it can be said that both sides, however minimally, recognize the effectiveness of the talks and are trying to narrow their differences. Pyongyang and Washington must do their best to arrive at a practical agreement by keeping this positive atmosphere alive.
The United States must give the North Koreans the confidence that its security will be better guaranteed if it gives up its nuclear weapons. The North must make the strategic decision to end this war of attrition by, for instance, dropping its insistence on the light-water nuclear reactor project. The North may fear change, but opportunities are made, not given. The other participants must further coordinate their efforts, to help Pyongyang and Washington make these strategic decisions.
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