Pressure and dialogue

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Pressure and dialogue

President Moon Jae-in’s special envoys to the United States and Japan delivered messages to U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe on Thursday and discussed key issues on the Korean Peninsula. We welcome the resumption of top level diplomacy after a six-month vacuum following the ouster of President Park Geun-hye.

Trump is known to have talked with Chairman of the Korean Peninsula Forum Hong Seok-hyun — Moon’s presidential emissary and a former South Korean Ambassador to the U.S. — in the Oval Office for a longer time than scheduled even amid tremendous chaos in his administration. We welcome the courtesy the U.S. president showed Chairman Hong as it could help ease South Korea’s deepening concerns about Uncle Sam bypassing Seoul in its dealings with Pyongyang.

What attracts our attention is that Trump mentioned “peace” in his meeting with Hong. Despite some strings attached — say, his opposition to dialogue for dialogue’s sake — Trump reportedly expressed an intent to make peace with the North if certain conditions are met.

Trump had sparked rumors of war in April through belligerent rhetoric about the North. The U.S. president’s mention of “peace” is a meaningful shift in the U.S. administration’s North Korea policy. It is time for Seoul and Washington to act in harmony with the rest of the international community. But we can hardly shun dialogue with Pyongyang if the appropriate conditions are met. The only way to solve the North Korean nuclear conundrum is having dialogue with the recalcitrant regime.

But we must not forget that it is only five days since the North fired a ballistic missile into the East Sea. It has been engaging in a vicious cycle of provocation, dialogue, rewards, nuclear development and more provocations. If Seoul and Washington are bent on having dialogue with the North no matter what, it will lead nowhere. Both sides must come up with realistic solutions to prevent further nuclear and missile development. The next step is the denuclearization of the peninsula.

The ruling Democratic Party’s senior lawmaker Moon Hee-sang, the presidential envoy to Tokyo, spent most of his time exchanging pleasantries with Abe. But the emissary’s meeting with the prime minister will surely help ease tensions over the sex slave agreement issue. We hope both sides find a breakthrough as soon as possible.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 19, Page 34
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