Any post-crisis strategy?
President Park Geun-hye’s dramatic turnaround in North Korea policy after its latest nuclear and long-range missile tests might be unavoidable. North Korea certainly must take responsibility for our government’s seismic transition from building trust with Pyongyang toward the goal of peaceful reunification to full-fledged containment through tough sanctions in tune with the international community’s harsh denouncement of the provocations.
In Tuesday’s special speech at the National Assembly, President Park said to “let the North realize its nuclear ambition only accelerates the collapse of the regime, and take potent and effective measures to create an environment in which North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has no other choice but to change his course.” She added that the shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex is only the beginning of tough sanctions the government will enact in sync with international society.
We fully understand her stern reaction to the North’s relentless provocations. But she only reiterated her earlier positions to reinforce security cooperation with the United States and Japan while building solidarity with China and Russia at the same time. The president stopped short of explaining how to overcome outstanding differences among them when it comes to the details.
Even when the United Nations hammers out its toughest-ever resolutions followed by separate sanctions by Seoul, Washington and Tokyo, we can hardly hope for substantial results without Beijing’s active participation. Yet Uncle Sam is only bent on building military pressure on China - instead of persuading it - on the East China Sea. Beijing reacts more sensitively to America’s deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, system in the South than to sanctions against the North.
Under these tense conditions, the government must shun an emotional approach. If it emotionally asks China to change its passive attitude, it runs the risk of losing its touted trust with Beijing. Won Yoo-chul, floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, also stressed to the legislature the need for our nuclear armament. It is naive of him to believe he can pressure Washington by raising the need for nuclear armament.
The government’s North Korea policy is at a crossroads. After President Park mentioned the taboo phrase “regime collapse,” new provocations are unavoidable. The Office of National Security, the National Intelligence Service, and the Ministry of Unification and Ministry of Foreign Affairs must achieve our national security through diplomatic efforts to persuade neighbors to cooperate with us.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 18, Page 34