SCMP, January 15, 2003 China, more than any other nation, can help resolve the issue of North Korean weapons proliferation. Its offer to host talks between Pyongyang and Washington has come at the best possible time. Beijing has a stake in ensuring dialogue takes place. Without stability in North Korea, it has no assurance against being flooded with refugees. While relations with the US may be warming, offering a venue for dialogue could help broaden the relationship. But even greater is the need to avoid the threat of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. Such a possibility poses as much a problem to China as it does the US, South Korea and Japan. The North's withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, expulsion of inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency and scrapping of an energy agreement with the US were hardly matters that China's leaders could ignore. As Pyongyang's closest ally, Beijing had an obligation to act. While it was contemplating a position, South Korea stepped into the breach and offered to mediate. Instead of being a solution, the move by President Kim Dae-jung and his successor, Roh Moo-hyun, only served to reveal a rift in policy with the US. With North Korea's threats to resume its nuclear programme and testing of missiles so real, the US has little alternative other than to consider dialogue. Deciding to refuse this until the North reversed its position served only to exacerbate the problem. US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly has returned to East Asia and former US ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson has held talks with North Korea's envoys to the world body. Secretary of State Colin Powell's comments that dialogue was the only way forward sealed the US position. These moves have been given impetus by China's offer. It is a step that reflects China's growing maturity as a respected player on the global stage. The US and North Korea must now accept the offer - dignifying it by seriously looking to settle their differences. * For more stories, read the main news section of the SCMP. Glossary proliferation (n) a rapid increase in number; the noun itself does not necessarily refer to the production of weapons Example: The security equipment market is projected to grow by 80 per cent in the region this year. Continued demand from the enterprise segment as well as proliferation of hotspots will drive growth. (SCMP, January 14, 2003) stake (n) an interest obligation (n) a duty because of social, legal or moral ties contemplate (v) to consider thoroughly rift (n) a break in a normally friendly relationship exacerbate (v) to make worse impetus (n) an incentive; a force to make things move Example: The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development found that China was providing the impetus to other economies in Asia and is increasingly assuming the role of the United States and Japan in the region. (SCMP, January 11, 2003) Discussion points - Using the editorial as a guide, summarise why China should help resolve the North Korean weapons proliferation crisis. - Do you know why North Korea has been making the headlines recently? - How do these events affect Hong Kong? - The US government halted fuel shipments to North Korea in December. Would you make the same decision if you were in US President Bush's position? Give reasons.