Ominous talk from Washington

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Ominous talk from Washington

U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly talked about the possibility of war with North Korea. According to Lindsey Graham, a Republican Senator from South Carolina, Trump indicated to him that the U.S. administration is prepared to strike North Korea to prevent an attack on the United States.

“There is a military option to destroy North Korea’s program and North Korea itself,” Graham said on American broadcasting network NBC. “If there’s going to be a war to stop him [Kim Jong-un], it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there, they’re not going to die here.”

The United States has hinted at the possibility of a strike on North Korea on several occasions. But the suggestion mostly ended with such remarks as, “We do not rule out a military option.” A U.S. administration or its president has never specifically mentioned a war with North Korea.

In whatever context the senator made such stunning remarks, we are surprised to learn that the U.S. administration prepared a war scenario to end the conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Even though Graham said thousands would die if a war breaks out on the peninsula, such a war would surely cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands or millions of people.

At the same time, we need to pay heed to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s very different remarks. On the same day, he said that the U.S. administration is trying to deliver a message to Pyongyang that Uncle Sam is not an enemy or threat to North Korea.

“We are not your enemy, we are not your threat . . . We would like to sit and have a dialogue about the future,” Tillerson said, speaking to North Korea directly. “We do not seek regime change. We do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula. We do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel.” Tillerson made the remarks during a surprise visit to the State Department’s briefing room Tuesday.

Put simply, the commander in chief of the United States and its foreign policy head have come up with two different messages to North Korea.

The United States may be sending contrasting signals in pursuit of a two-track policy of “maximum pressure and engagement” in dealing with the recalcitrant regime in Pyongyang. The effort is aimed at forcing North Korea to come to the negotiating table. Needless to say, that is the best option for South Korea. The Moon Jae-in government must keep in mind that there is no other solution than proactively joining tough sanctions led by the international community if it really wants to avoid another war on the peninsula.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 3, Page 30
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