Time for concrete action plansDespite an apparently last-minute telephone conversation between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping over the weekend, the tension on the Korean Peninsula has not subsided. During such an emergency, local residents and left-leaning civic groups are still protesting the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) in front of the site for the missile shield in Seongju, North Gyeongsang.
Xi and Trump had a conversation on Saturday to address the mounting North Korean nuclear threat, but were unable to find a detailed solution. While Xi adhered to the resolution of the crisis through a dialogue and deal between Washington and Pyongyang, Trump reiterated his earlier demand that Pyongyang immediately stop provocations.
Meanwhile, an argument for a preventive strike by the United States on the North is gaining momentum. Trump tweeted something like an ultimatum Friday. “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,” he warned. Mainstream U.S. media are joining the bandwagon by coming up with one imaginary war scenario after another. In a similar move, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited South Korea Sunday to discuss the growing threat from North Korea.
We have a tinderbox ready to explode. Once the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise — one of the world’s largest joint drills between South Korea and the United States, kicks off later this month, North Korea could be tempted to provoke again, which may lead to a military clash on the peninsula. Some security experts predict that North Korea will stop short of launching ballistic missiles to the Pacific island. But we can hardly rely on such reassurances given the unpredictability of both North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Trump.
We cannot understand people’s opposition to the Thaad deployment amid such heightened tension and despite the results of an environmental assessment which found no damage from the battery’s electromagnetic waves. Are they patriotic citizens at a time when North Korea could fire missiles to the South?
The government must change its laid-back attitude. After the phone conversation between Xi and Trump, the Blue House expressed hope that both leaders address the highest-ever tension and step forward to resolve the conflict. No citizen will follow a government making such a statement without substance. We hope President Moon Jae-in presents concrete action plans on Liberation Day.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 14, Page 26