One drop at a timeThe United States is seething after Otto Warmbier, American college student, previously in hearty health, returned home in a vegetative state.
The United States House of Representatives has voted to immediately extend the North Korean Human Rights Act for an additional five years and the American media is demanding stronger sanctions on North Korea, including a travel ban.
In the midst of this situation, there are voices of concern regarding President Moon Jae-in’s overture in resuming talks with North Korea and calling for constructing South-North railways again.
Moon’s unilateral push for resuming talks with North Korea can throw a monkey wrench in the upcoming South Korea-United States summit scheduled on June 29 and 30, and may send the wrong signal to the international community, which works together in imposing stricter sanctions on North Korea.
However, no matter how hopeless the situation may be, grabbing a single thread of hope, our attention should be paid to the will of the new administration, which seeks a resolution to the issue.
“If North Korea refrains from conducting additional nuclear or missile provocations, we can talk with North Korea without preconditions,” said Moon.
He proposed the resumption of South-North dialogue, including a summit meeting, and laid out key agenda of ultimately denuclearizing North Korea and building a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula through normalizing diplomatic ties between North Korea and the United States.
At the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s opening ceremony on Jeju Island, Moon emphasized the eventual restoration of South-North relations, saying, “The completion of a land and sea Silk Road will be realized when the South and North are connected by railway.”
Compared to former President Park Geun-hye, who said, “there will be talks if North Korea demonstrates sincerity in discarding its nuclear programs,” Moon’s proposal for a resumption of talks with North Korea is setting the bar to enter dialogue much lower. His intention can be construed as widening the “entrance” to the resolution of North Korea’s nuclear programs.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis stressed that a diplomatic solution was a priority to avoid “catastrophic war“ on the Korean Peninsula. Mattis’ remarks seem to reflect China’s proposal, which calls for suspension of both North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests and large-scale South Korea-U.S. military drills at the same time.
Now the ball is in North Korea’s court.
Kim Jong-un, the chairman of North Korea’s Workers’ Party, avoiding to even ride his official car out of fear of a “decapitating” operation, must immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests and come to the negotiation table. Kim should accept South Korea’s humanitarian aid at once.
When water continues flowing, a channel naturally forms. With more and more talks, solutions and arrangements for the complicated Korean Peninsula issue will be hashed out.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 17, Page 26