Enough is enoughThe standoff between the United States and North Korea over its nuclear and missile threats is taking a dangerous turn. U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday invited 100 senators to the White House to explain the danger of the North’s uninterrupted nuclear development. Three days earlier, Trump met with 15 members of the UN Security Council at the White House for the same reason followed by the swift deployment Wednesday of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system in Seongju, North Gyeongsang.
Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., who leads the U.S. Pacific Command, went so far as to insist at a House Armed Services Committee hearing that the U.S. administration scrap its defense budget sequestration in order to effectively cope with North Korean nuclear and missile threats. His rhetoric is aimed at securing enough funding to take military action against the North — if the need arises. Such moves are seen as possible preliminary steps toward an American military engagement on the Korean Peninsula.
More alarming than Trump’s invitation to the entire Senate is what he told them. He said that he will deal with North Korea more aggressively while leaving open the door to negotiation to achieve the security and peace of the region through denuclearization of the peninsula. Put differently, the United States could remove the North’s nuclear weapons by using its military power, but at the same time dialogue is possible. That almost sounds like an ultimatum.
It is fortunate that North Korea stopped short of conducting a sixth nuclear test between April 15, Kim Il Sung’s birthday, and April 25, the 85th anniversary of the founding of its Army. But Trump’s message to Kim Jong-un is resolute: if North Korea does not come to the bargaining table, America could launch military attacks on its nuclear facilities. If North Korea fires back with its long-range multiple rocket launchers, a localized, if not full-scale, war is unavoidable.
Even if the North comes back to the negotiating table, it will not be easy to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. The North would only accept talks that seek to freeze its nuclear program, not end it. Under such circumstances, we cannot rule out the possibility that Pyongyang continues to advance its nuclear weapons behind the scenes while negotiating with Washington. That would only prolong the status quo.
And yet, our presidential candidates are engrossed in campaigning without even touching such a critical issue. We urge them to think again. Our people deserve it.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 28, Page 38