[EDITORIALS]North endangers us allNorth Korea’s announcement of its plan for a nuclear test is shaking up the situation on the Korean Peninsula from its foundations. Although North Korea announced last year that it possessed nuclear weapons, announcing possession is one thing and conducting a nuclear test is another.
That announcement will likely create a domino effect of nuclear weapons expansion in Northeast Asia and international pressure against North Korea will increase more than ever before.
The United States has been making hard-line reactions since immediately after the North’s announcement. The United Nations, the European Union, Japan, China and Russia are sending grave warnings to North Korea in quick succession.
North Korea is exercising a diplomacy of brinkmanship with nuclear weapons and missiles and it seems literally to be about to fall from the brink.
What is the reason for North Korea running toward this brink?
Interpretations vary from it being a means to protect North Korea from the United States’ maneuvering to collapse it by oppression, as the North Korean authority argues, to it being an extreme way to protect a system which has been reclusive and isolated to such an extent that it cannot coexist normally with the international community.
However, what’s more important than the North’s intentions is that its actions will worsen the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, and that will inevitably bring us more pain and hardship.
If North Korea proceeds with a nuclear test, South Korea has no choice but to think about possessing nuclear weapons because it would have no other way to keep itself safe from the aggression of the North. That would be the same for both Japan and Taiwan, who would be highly likely to join this trend.
This behavior would certainly lead the Northeast Asian order toward military confrontations, instead of making us pursue peaceful coexistence within the region.
Thus, North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons would decisively make it impossible for Northeast Asia to have and keep peace. South Korea would have to take more of the burden for national security, which has already been almost unendurably heavy for us. Furthermore, Korean’s national wish for peaceful reunification would become more difficult to realize.
This is a hard situation for Koreans to endure as we have already been separated between the South and the North for more than half a century.
The North’s announcement of its plan to carry out a nuclear test makes it clear that it will go ahead with such a test unless the United States has direct talks with North Korea and compromises. The statement also strongly implies that not much time is left before such a test.
It is obvious what we have to choose in this situation. We need to concentrate all our efforts toward stopping North Korea from carrying out a nuclear test.
It was most timely that the South Korean government has sent a warning toward North Korea, saying, “We gravely warn that North Korea alone must take responsibility for all results.”
The South Korean government should start taking actual measures so that its warning can not be lightly regarded as merely empty words. It should examine the possibility of temporarily stopping assistance to the North, such as the shipping of construction materials including cement, scheduled for today, for the damage that the North received from recent floods.
The government should re-examine its North Korea policy as a whole, considering the situation after North Korea carries out a nuclear test. When international society is likely to put increased pressure on North Korea, will it be possible or even reasonable to continue the sunshine policy?
Will the government pursue changes in the South Korea-U.S. alliance, including the transfer of wartime operational command of its military? How should it respond to the national security crisis that will rapidly spread? What measures should it take to sustain its economic growth, while living next to the North, the nuclear armed state? Should it go back to the fiercely confrontational situation of the past, if needed?
The government should thoroughly re-examine its policies, such as its North Korea policy, national security policy, foreign affairs policy and economic policy.
North Korea is trying to justify its position that it has chosen a nuclear test for its survival. But North Korean leaders must know that their wrong choice could threaten the survival of not only North Korea but of all Korean people and shake the basis of development of our nation.
North Korea’s brinkmanship contains the risk of endangering and even destroying the future of all Koreans.
Therefore, the South Korean government must stop North Korea’s nuclear test from occurring, by whatever means necessary, while working together with the international community.
It is meaningless to debate whether we should embrace the North or oppose it, if North Korea really conducts a nuclear test or even when it has already announced its plan for a test. This is because North Korea’s plan for a nuclear test is like forcing us to give in to the North’s military-first policy.