The clock is ticking

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The clock is ticking

The tension on the Korean Peninsula is rapidly mounting a day before Oct. 10, Party Foundation Day in North Korea. The North has often made provocations on anniversaries of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il’s birthdays or U.S. national holidays, like Columbus Day on Oct. 9 this year, to maximize its propaganda against the United States.

Evidence of North Korea resorting to a show of force is plenty. After a trip to Pyongyang, Russian parliament members said they saw North Koreans preparing for another missile test to prove their ability to strike the West Coast of the United States. The Blue House has entered emergency mode by holding National Security Council meetings.

What concerns us most is the growing possibility of a military clash between North Korea and the United States. The exchanges of verbal attacks show it. U.S. President Donald Trump discredited past U.S. administrations’ agreements with Pyongyang over the last 25 years — except for an option he did not specify. But it could refer to a military action, as succinctly suggested by Trump’s comparison of the tense situation to “the calm before the storm.”

But North Korea dismissed any likelihood of negotiation. Its representative to the United Nations underscored that it will not budge an inch unless Washington’s hostility stops. He said North Korea will never put its ballistic missiles on the table.

A military clash must be averted since the option accompanies immense casualties in the South. Washington will avoid a military path only when the U.S.-led sanctions prove effective in controlling the North’s nuclear threat.

Fortunately, the ever-tougher sanctions have begun to work, as seen in the alleged threefold hikes in gas prices in Pyongyang. If the trend continues, North Korea will most likely face a serious economic crisis. Its clandestine reactivation of the suspended operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex could be attributed to the sanctions. For the moment, it is best for us to earnestly participate in the international sanctions to force the recalcitrant regime to come back to the negotiating table.

But the Moon Jae-in government must not allow Washington and Pyongyang to strike a deal without Seoul’s participation. The government must closely communicate with Washington while preparing a comprehensive and feasible package of solutions on our own. The government vowed to take the driver’s seat in solving the conundrum, but failed to present concrete action plans. The clock is ticking.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 9, Page 26
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