Less than robust response

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Less than robust response

Tension has rapidly risen after North Korea threatened to fire four intermediate-range ballistic missiles into waters off Guam, where strategic American assets are based. A ferocious volley of threats between Pyongyang and Washington further deepens security concerns in South Korea. Despite a National Security Council meeting to cope with the situation, not much was decided. With the date of the North’s threatened missile provocation approaching fast — next week — the Moon Jae-in administration still appears helpless.

North Korea is engaged in a full-fledged propaganda war and is calling the threatened attack on Guam an “all-out war for justice.” Radio Free Asia said North Korea has entered emergency mode by ordering its people to be on the highest alert, not to mention encouraging teenagers to volunteer for the Army. In reaction, U.S. President Donald Trump sternly warned, “What they’ve been doing and what they’ve been getting away with is a tragedy and it can’t be allowed.” If North Korea does not come to its senses, it will suffer, he added.

If North Korea really launches missiles at Guam, the situation could get out of control. We can hardly rule out the possibility of Trump’s warning — “Things will happen to them like they never thought possible” — turning into reality. His remarks are backed by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, who said in California, “My responsibility is to have military options if needed.”

At the same time, we are dumbfounded at remarks by Moon Chung-in, President Moon’s special adviser on unification, diplomacy and security. In an interview with Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, he said that if the United States does not scrap its antagonistic policies toward North Korea, negotiation is impossible. How could he take such a position while it was North Korea that first came up with the idea of mounting a missile attack on the Pacific island.

The Ministry of National Defense also makes us incredulous. Until when will it delay the scheduled environmental assessment for the full deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) missile shield in the face of opposition from local residents and left-leaning civic groups? Can they even be called patriotic citizens when our national security is so acutely at stake?

The deepening security concerns also affect our domestic and international financial markets. The Kospi index plunged 3.4 percent after the North fired its Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile in the middle of the night in July due to foreign investors’ fear of increasing geopolitical risks. The Dow also took a dive after the exchange of verbal threats between Trump and North Korea.

Stock markets in Europe, China and Japan also showed the same trend. That means they sense the increasing likelihood of an armed conflict between the United States and North Korea. The government must react to the dramatic shifts in our security and economic environments. North Korea, too, must stop unnecessary provocations once and for all.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 12, Page 26
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