Murder in MalaysiaNorth Korea has shocked the world again. We are deeply concerned about its abominable act of terror at a crowded airport in a foreign country in broad daylight. Though it may take a while to discover the whole truth behind the assassination of Kim Jong-nam — elder half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — circumstantial evidence points to North Korean operatives poisoning him in some manner in Malaysia. Security experts say Pyongyang was that determined to prevent his possible defection to South Korea. The heinous act may also be due to excessive loyalty by the Reconnaissance General Bureau to Kim Jong-un.
Kim Jong-un was plainly afraid of the existence of an elder brother in a dynasty based on a single supreme leader. He knew that if he could be that leader, so could his brother. Kim needed to remove his brother to block his potential ascension to the throne. And the timing was good. Kim killed his brother a day after he tested an advanced ballistic missile, which helped distract the world’s attention. Watching the unrivaled barbarity of the regime, we must realize that more terrorist acts are certain in the future.
We must renew our awareness that Kim’s regime can do whatever it wants. Recognizing the grim reality that the North’s nuclear and missile threats are not bluffs, we must deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system and other measures to strengthen our security. Internal division cannot be allowed no matter what.
Second, our government must closely cooperate with Malaysian authorities to reveal the truth behind the assassination to lay bare the unfathomable brutality of Kim’s regime. Then China may pull away from its blind embrace of Pyongyang and take more constructive steps to eliminate North Korean nuclear weapons. Beijing was already appalled at Kim’s execution of his uncle Jang Song-thaek in 2013. Now it will surely be forced to wonder if North Korea is really such a strategic partner.
Third, we must be prepared for any possible acts of terror by the North. The government must do its best to protect North Korean defectors as well as our citizens campaigning for human rights in North Korea. No one knows where the young and eccentric leader will head.
Nuclear weapons in the hands of such a figure is a nightmare scenario. The government must toughen sanctions on the North by persuading China and augmenting our unity at home. It is time to overcome the regime’s unrivaled atrocities.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 16, Page 30