Park should focus on North

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Park should focus on North

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Seoul on Sunday amid subtle tension between Seoul and Washington due to cozy ties between the United States and Japan. Kerry, who is visiting Seoul for the second time since February 2014, will discuss the agenda for the summit talks President Park Geun-hye will have when she visits Washington next month.

The fundamental relationship between the two traditional allies remains intact. But Washington has upset Seoul with suggestions that it is siding with Tokyo on the longstanding spat between Korea and Japan over history and territorial issues. We cannot complain about the red-carpet treatment the United States gave Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his first state visit to Washington last month. But we were disappointed that U.S. officials condoned Abe’s falling short of making a public apology on the enslavement of Korean and Asian women in military brothels during World War II.

We, however, cannot whine about the issue while Kerry is in town. Abe’s visit to Washington clearly showed that such a strategy does not work. Instead, we must make sure the Korea-U.S. summit talks do not end in formalities. Park’s visit takes place soon after the eventful Abe address to the joint session of the U.S. Congress, which was the first for any Japanese leader. Much more emphasis was placed on the ceremonial formalities during past state visits to the United States by former Korean presidents. Park made a joint address two years ago and cannot expect the same red-carpet treatment given to Abe, as she is making a return visit. Instead, Seoul should focus on drawing meaningful and practical outcomes during the upcoming summit talks.

The two countries must discuss the imminent threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea amid Pyongyang’s claim it has test-fired a submarine ballistic missile. Although the validity of the test cannot be confirmed, what is undeniable is that North Korea is pushing ahead with ballistic missile and nuclear weapon development. In four to five years, the weapons could be ready for military posture.

Submarine-launched ballistic missiles are particularly dangerous because they cannot be easily tracked. None of the anti-missile network Korea has been developing will be of any protection if nuclear warheads fly from underwater. Even if the land is under attack, the SLBM can deliver a fatal blow to the country it is fighting. If North Korea does master the technology, it could cause shock and fear tantamount to the Soviet Sputnik during the Cold War.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 18, Page 34

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