Our diplomacy at a crossroads

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Our diplomacy at a crossroads

We welcome the government’s latest decision to impose unilateral sanctions against North Korea - including restrictions on financial transactions and maritime transportation - in sync with the separate sanctions by the United States, European Union and Japan outside of the UN Security Council resolution. If we do not take such an action, it’s tantamount to a dereliction of duty on our part.

The four types of sanctions announced by the government Tuesday also include quite a symbolic one which added 40 individuals and 30 organizations involved in the North’s nuclear and missile development to the list of financial sanctions. How many South Korean citizens and financial institutions could have engaged in trade with them? But the reinforced maritime controls, tougher restrictions on exports and imports, and the ban on visiting North Korean restaurants overseas could effectively prevent the North from earning hard currency if the measures are implemented by the book.

The sanctions also call for the participation of our citizens and residents overseas. The government urges them to shun their visits to for-profit facilities operated by the Kim Jong-un regime abroad. It will be very hard to keep a close watch on their use of such facilities - or to punish offenders. But they must not forget their anomalous visits only help Pyongyang develop more sophisticated weapons of mass destruction.

Yet the government must minimize the ramifications of its own sanctions - including Russia’s frustration and discontent over the suspension of the ongoing Rajin-Khasan project aimed at shipping Russian coal to South Korea by sea through the special economic zone. The trilateral project must have been a financial boon for cash-strapped Moscow after the fall of oil prices. But the joint project went up in smoke after our government banned all vessels which visited North Korean harbors from entering South Korea.

Despite its diminishing clout over the Korean Peninsula, Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a partner in the six-party talks. Without its support, we can hardly expect a peaceful unification. Our government must be extra careful not to make Russia turn its back on us.

The botched Rajin-Khasan project dealt a fatal blow to the Park Geun-hye administration’s ambitious “Eurasian Initiative,” following her abandoned “Korean Peninsula Trust Process” and “Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative.” Despite a need to change our diplomatic course after the North’s nuclear and missile provocations, we cannot weather the turbulent tide sweeping Northeast Asia without a single road map. Our diplomacy is at a crossroads. JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 9, Page 30

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