NSC must step up

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NSC must step up

On the threshold of a new year, South Korea is in distress over daunting challenges at home and abroad. While South Koreans are engrossed in watching the spectacular drama being played out in the National Assembly and predicting the final ruling of the Constitutional Court after the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, turbulent movements are being made overseas. We seriously wonder if the country can really overcome such an unparalleled crises in the country and abroad.

The biggest challenge, of course, comes from Donald J. Trump. With his stunning election as U.S. president, our biggest ally now poses a dilemma we have never seen before. Trump’s unpremeditated and spontaneous remarks on complicated and grave diplomatic issues are starting to become a new normal to South Koreans and everyone else around the globe. After his abrupt message on Twitter that he would reinforce U.S. nuclear capabilities by rejecting non-proliferation — the backbone of U.S. foreign policy — the entire world was shocked. And then he nonchalantly denied it the next day.

Trump’s apparent negation of the “One China” policy, the foundation for Sino-U.S. relations since Richard Nixon’s historic visit to Beijing in 1972, as seen in his telephone converstion with Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen, is bringing great uncertainty to the bilateral relationship. His nominations of pro-Russian and anti-Chinese people for key posts handling military and security matters for his administration increasingly raise the possibility that he will confront China on many fronts after he is sworn in as president in January.

Reacting to the hard-line stances of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, China resorted to a show of force. It held a massive military drill on the East China Sea with a fleet of its first aircraft carrier Liaoning on Friday and Saturday and then on the West Pacific on Sunday. A retrogressive drama of confrontation led by the strongmen of America, China and Russia is being played out.

If Trump joins forces with Putin, who elevated his approval rating through the annexation of the Crimea and engagement in the Syrian civil war, and competes with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in a full-fledged manner, it will affect South Korea. If North Korea unilaterally declares a moratorium on nuclear activities after conducting a sixth and seventh nuclear test, that could pose a serious problem for us because no one can ensure that Trump will take our side given his utterly confusing signals.

Despite such a situation, we do not have trustworthy leadership. In such an emergency, the National Security Council must fully take charge of our security. Head of the council Kim Kwan-jin, a former four-star general and defense minister, must play a pivotal role on security and diplomacy. It is not time for him to lower his guard during the Constitutional Court’s deliberations on the presidential impeachment. He must do his best to defend the nation through frequent consultations with other NSC members. That’s his last mission until the next government takes charge.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 27, Page 34
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