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U.S. editorial excerpts.

NEW YORK, Jan. 6 Kyodo

Selected editorial excerpts from the U.S. press:

GROUNDHOG DAY IN PYONGYANG (The Wall Street Journal, New York)

So Jack Pritchard is finally getting those bilateral talks with the North Koreans he's long been promoting. We trust, however, that when Kim Jong Il's minions sit down with the former State Department official and the delegation he's traveling with to Pyongyang this week, they'll notice something very different: This time the only one Mr. Pritchard will be speaking for is himself.

That will be healthy for everyone to keep in mind while Mr. Pritchard visits at the invitation of Pyongyang with a ballyhooed private delegation that also includes Stanford professor John Wilson Lewis and Sigfried Hecker, the former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Reports suggest that the North Koreans may allow the delegation into the Yongbyon nuclear facility.

Their visit comes at a particularly delicate time, scarcely a month after the breakdown of the planned six-party talks (with U.S., China, Russia, Japan, North Korea and South Korea) that the White House insists is the proper venue for resolving the nuclear standoff. Though the Bush Administration did not stop the visit, a State Department spokesman did warn that the Administration was leery of anything that might ''complicate'' these multilateral talks.

But complicating U.S. policy is exactly what the North Koreans have in mind by choosing to invite this entourage. Mr. Pritchard is the former Clinton official and later Bush State Department special envoy to North Korea who went out with a media bang back in August. As he was quick to make both clear and public, he favors two things that President Bush has ruled out: bilateral negotiations with the North Koreans, and concessions to get them back to the table.

If all this is beginning to sound like the North Korean version of ''Groundhog Day'' -- the movie in which Bill Murray is forced to relive the same day over and over -- it's because this has been North Korean procedure from the get-go. And until Mr. Bush arrived on the scene and vowed there'd be no more rewards for bad behavior, the North Koreans had done pretty well by it.

So well that the deal they are offering now is essentially the same one they offered us back in 1994, the last time they manufactured a nuclear crisis. Come to think of it, it was a similar private initiative back then, by former President Jimmy Carter, that helped force a deal at a moment when Bill Clinton was taking a harder line.

It is this same path that Mr. Pritchard and his intellectual and political allies now propose to take us down again. To his credit, while at State he evidently made no bones about his disagreement with the change in direction that President Bush was pursuing. Last April, he finally offered his resignation.

The really interesting question is why someone so at odds with official Bush policy was kept on so long, but then again much of the State Department often seems to be a Dean Administration in waiting.

Maybe by opening the door to Mr. Pritchard and Co. the North Koreans figure they can embarrass Mr. Bush or play into the Presidential campaign. But for those who believe that the North Koreans can be sweet-talked into a new deal -- and that we should believe them this time -- the irony is that this high-profile invitation to one of the Administration's leading critics may only stiffen the Bush resolve. We hope so.

(Jan. 6)
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Jan 12, 2004
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