South Korea and Japan have dealt with North Korea's weapons proliferation, drug trafficking and currency counterfeiting by initiating policies of engagement. Until April 23, the approach was shunned by United States President George W. Bush's administration, which preferred to use economic sanctions and diplomatic silence. In three days of talks in Beijing brokered by China, envoys from the US and North Korea made little progress in trying to strike a deal to end Pyongyang's nuclear programme. Little progress was made. The North has since announced it is making nuclear weapons. Throughout, South Korea and Japan have maintained separate policies, arguing that sanctions would only worsen the plight of North Koreans, who in recent years have been suffering food shortages caused by climatic extremes and official mismanagement. Historic talks in Pyongyang three years ago between the South's former president Kim Dae-jung and the North's leader, Kim Jong-il, opened a process that has inched forward economically and diplomatically. The symbolic joining of railway tracks constructed by both yesterday brought Koreans' dream of unification a step nearer. Trains will not use the line, or a second one being built to the east, for some time. But President Roh Moo-hyun has maintained the sunshine policy of engagement favoured by his predecessor and more tangible signs of progress in relations, such as increased economic co-operation and reunions of families split by the division of the Koreas, are possible. Japan has fared less well diplomatically, but has continued to provide humanitarian assistance and kept open channels through which its Korean community can transfer funds. Talks between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Kim Jong-il, although historic, produced little of substance. On Friday, the US, South Korea and Japan agreed after two days of talks in Hawaii to work together to stop North Korea's weapons proliferation and bring stability to the Korean peninsula through peaceful means. Their joint statement expressed concern about 'illegal activities by North Korean entities, including drug running and counterfeiting'. Individually, the efforts of the three had done nothing to prevent Kim Jong-il's Stalinist regime from taking its own course to solve its economic and humanitarian problems. Security in northeast Asia worsened as a result of their efforts. But Friday's agreement offers a new hope. Working together, and bringing North Korea's closest allies China and Russia to the table, will provide a powerful reason for Pyongyang to take heed. Such a multilateral approach will convince North Korea that its erratic, dangerous policies cannot be tolerated.