Editorial Roundup — October 04, 2005

• North Korea backs out


North Korea backs out

Journal Star, Peoria, Ill., Thursday, Sept. 2

No sooner had the U.S. popped the bubbly on a new nuclear nonproliferation agreement with “axis of evil” member North Korea than its leaders reneged, saying Americans “should not even dream” of a nuke-free North without further concessions. Six-party talks have been going on for more than two years to get North Korea to back away from the nuclear brink. On Monday there appeared to be a breakthrough, with North Korea seemingly agreeing to abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” and to submit to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The U.S. reciprocated by consenting not to plant any nuclear missiles in South Korea and to sign a non-aggression pledge.

Not 24 hours later, the North Koreans were saying not so fast, they wanted the U.S. to first make available a nuclear reactor for civilian energy generation. It’s not the first time that subject has been broached, but no can do, said the White House.

This is par for the course for the North Koreans, who have proven notoriously unreliable at the bargaining table. Just when you think you have a deal to make the world a safer place, you don’t and it’s not.

That does not mean that the six nations – the U.S., the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia – should go back home and hunker down for the worst. China, in particular, downplayed the setback, saying progress has been made. China is a critical player in these conversations in that it’s the only nation that has any real leverage in Pyongyang. This is one situation where Washington really needs Beijing’s cooperation.

That’s because nukes at the disposal of a diminutive tyrant who believes he’s an Asian Elvis when he’s playing deity – North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, in other words – can destabilize not only one region but threaten peace in the world. Some dialogue is better than none, and all the parties should keep at it.

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