Time for unity

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Time for unity

On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a bill levying sanctions on North Korea, Russia and Iran. With the action, the U.S. administration’s toughest-ever sanctions against the North are in effect following the bill’s overwhelming approval by the U.S. Congress. The U.S. government and the international community have imposed countless sanctions on the recalcitrant regime in Pyongyang. But the latest by Uncle Sam could have a significant impact on the maverick state as they include what amount to secondary sanctions mainly targeting China, a major sponsor of North Korea.

The United States’ effort to put pressure on North Korea does not stop there. Washington plans to announce a concrete set of retaliatory measures on its trade with China in the coming weeks. On the surface, the measures are taken to ease Washington’s astronomical trade deficit with Beijing. In fact, they are punishments for Xi Jinping’s critical lack of will to address the North Korean nuclear threat.

The U.S. administration’s position on the matter is getting tougher than ever. Backpedaling on his willingness to talk with the Kim Jong-un regime a day earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday said he would not meet with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho at the Asean Regional Forum in Manila, which starts Sunday. That means Washington has already launched full-fledged sanctions according to the “maximum pressure and engagement” policy declared by Trump.

Under such circumstances, concerned parties should not get in the way of the campaign. Needless to say, successful economic sanctions depend on a complete shutoff of external aid to North Korea. That’s the only way to make the state acutely feel the pain and come to the negotiating table.

Nevertheless, a disturbing — and divisive — movement is taking place in South Korea. A group of 20 lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party and over 100 civilians plan a 13-day march along the Civilian Control Line near the DMZ from the east to west coast. Peace movements may be needed for unification. But it simply does not make sense for South Koreans to take such an action shortly after the North test-fired its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile last week.

Such an inexcusable move can send Pyongyang the wrong message that Seoul is still bent on having dialogue with it. To make matters worse, our Ministry of Unification said there is no change in the government’s position to pursue sanctions and dialogue at the same time. If the sanctions are to succeed, involved parties must form a united front.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 4, Page 30
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