The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said on Saturday it was prepared to consider the US offer of a written security guarantee in return for dropping its nuclear program.
The DPRK's position is undoubtedly a positive step towards a peaceful settlement of the thorny nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.
The United States and the DPRK, the two main players in the crisis, have been in a virtual deadlock in talks about their nuclear dispute since the six-party talks, which also brought China, Russia, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) together in Beijing in August.
The United States has previously insisted that Pyongyang first stop its nuclear program before any other actions can be taken.
The DPRK said its nuclear program was completely a response to Washington's hostile policy and insisted that only after its security was legally guaranteed could the nuclear issue be resolved.
During last week's summit of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Bangkok, Thailand, US President George W. Bush made a significant shift of his previous attitude toward the DPRK. He said the United States could provide the DPRK with a written commitment of security assurance.
The DPRK's initial response to the offer was negative. Pyongyang said only after the United States gives up its long-held hostile policy towards its country and a bilateral non-aggression treaty is signed between them, could the nuclear issue possibly be resolved.
Now the change of heart from Pyongyang would seem a way to get the two countries out of the deadlock.
However, the latest move only means that one of the disputes between the two may be cleared up on the way to the negotiation table.
In its Foreign Ministry comment, the DPRK said before Pyongyang had confirmed Washington's sincerity it could not be assumed that more multilateral nuclear talks would be held.
"It is premature to talk about the six-way talks under the present situation," the comment said.
It seems urgent to first cultivate a sense of mutual trust between the two countries in the current situation.
To carry forward the talks on the nuclear issue, not to mention finding an ultimate solution, the two countries still need to take some big steps forward, make concessions if necessary, and work hard to overcome various negative factors in a problem-solving spirit.
(China Daily October 28, 2003)