Keep rapprochement goingNorth Korea held a very big military parade on Oct. 10 to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party. It is estimated that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un spent as much as $1.72 billion - nearly one-third of the nation’s annual budget - for the event and mobilized 20,000 soldiers of the People’s Army as well as 100,000 citizens.
The North also showed off diverse advanced weapons, including KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missiles and new 300-millimeter rocket launchers. On the podium in Kim Il Sung Square, Kim Jong-un, first chairman of the National Defense Commission, renewed the North Korean forces’ morale by saying, “We are ready to engage in any type of war imperialist America wants to wage.” That reminds us that we must not lower our guard to counter the North’s threats.
Nevertheless, we could sense a subtle yet significant change in the coverage of the parade. First of all, North Korea refrained from provoking the South in advance of its celebration through a test-firing of a long-range missile or another nuclear test. The prediction that the country would show off a model of submarine-launched ballistic missiles in the military parade also didn’t come true.
China could have flexed its muscle to pressure the North not to raise tension on the Korean Peninsula. The attendance of Liu Yunshan, a leading member of China’s Politburo, at the ceremony on behalf of Chinese President Xi Jinping could be seen as a move to curb the North’s provocations down the road.
At the same time, the Kim Jong-un regime gave the impression that it does not want to provoke the South. Kim eschewed his signature denunciation of our government in his 25-minute speech. He avoided using such words as “nuclear” by changing his earlier slogan of “economic and nuclear development at the same time” to “economic and defense development at the same time.”
Kim also used the word “people” 97 times during his address while replacing his catchphrase of “construction of a powerful, big country” with “construction of a strong country.” Such a toning down seems to be aimed at easing tension.
Such appeasement is likely to continue for a while. Our government should not miss any good opportunity for rapprochement and must try to have multilateral dialogue with the North following the resumption of upcoming inter-Korean family reunions.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 12, Page 34