Washington is currently pursuing hardline politics more strongly than before, demanding a total dismantling of Pyongyang's nuclear program before it makes any concessions toward peace talks. And, it complains that other countries are not "following" its lead, sometimes pinpointing this criticism on South Korea. The U.S. says that Koreans' apathy toward the "dangerous" situation with North Korea hinders its chances of getting favorable results in negotiations with Pyongyang.
While it is true that a large percentage of Korean people, especially young people, are more interested in managing their own lives than finding out about North Korea and the U.S.'s face-off, the U.S. has committed two interconnected mistakes: hyping up the situation to fit their own needs, and underestimating the value of Seoul's reasons for not running to pick a fight with Pyongyang. The U.S. assumes that North Korea wants to bomb South Korea as soon as it makes a nuclear weapon and that a preemptive strike may be necessary. But it doesn't consider the fact that Kim Jong-il knows such an action would be suicide in international politics and that a nuclear war would devastate North Korea domestically as well.
What Washington wants is for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program; yet the U.S. goes about expressing itself and eliciting responses in an unproductive way. A series of disputes has taken place with the U.S. calling Kim a "tyrant" and North Korea responding by calling U.S. President Bush a "philistine" and "Hitler junior." It seems no one is likely to win this face-off of egos.
Instead, it would be wise for politicians on both sides to remember the Camp David Accord of 1979, in which an incipient war in the Middle East was pacified by former U.S. President Carter's mediation methods that addressed the interests of both Israel and Egypt. Then, the U.S. played the role of a neutral mediator between the two sides. But what the U.S. seems to be trying to do now is force the whole world into just two sides on the North Korean issue, leaving out any possibility that any country can act as a mediator.
This approach has not worked, so far, so the U.S. should swallow its pride and ask a third country mediator to come into the picture, rather than overplaying its paradoxical role as pacifier by force.
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