Ease the fearThe possibility of military conflict on the Korean Peninsula is growing after strategic American bombers flew near the sensitive demilitarized zone in a show of force. The move came after North Korea’s foreign affairs minister, Ri Yong-ho, in a speech to the UN General Assembly on Saturday, threatened pre-emptive action should the United States display any signs of attack. In response, President Trump tweeted, “If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”
Military tension is mounting rapidly. The United States sent B-1B bombers east of North Korea’s coast to demonstrate determination to strike at any time, and that’s not all. Earlier, infantry soldiers from South Korea and the United States engaged in a joint drill to remove weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear bombs, missiles and chemical weapons. The American military reportedly replaced new soldiers with veterans who have experience fighting in the Middle East.
Under such a volatile situation, North Korea’s foreign minister made a belligerent-than-ever speech at the UN. He threatened to take merciless pre-emptive action if Washington shows even a slight sign of military attack or mission to kill Kim Jong-un. His remarks are a reaction to Trump’s vow to “totally destroy North Korea.” Earlier, Kim threatened to take unprecedentedly strong counteraction in his first statement as chairman of the Workers’ Party.
Since war can break out even with verbal provocations, it is not desirable for the leaders of both countries to engage in such attacks. A war of words only helps increase the risk of real war. The South Korean government must act prudently after watching the situation carefully.
The first step is maximizing pressure on Pyongyang with the United States. Our government must refrain from taking unexpected steps like its proposal of humanitarian aid to North Korea.
The government must also reduce economic risks. If security shakes in the peninsula, it will have a huge impact on our economy, including a drastic reduction of foreign investment and trade.
Above all, if other countries don’t send athletes to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February, it’s a disaster. After France announced a plan not to participate in the Games unless South Korea ensures the safety of its athletes, Austria and Germany followed suit. If Europe’s powerhouses don’t participate in the Games, other countries can be swayed. The government must ease people’s concerns and prevent the fear from spreading.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 25, Page 38