Absence of diplomacy

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Absence of diplomacy

A spate of alarming news has broken on the Korean Peninsula shortly after the long Chuseok holiday. Two American B-1B bombers flew over the airspace near North Korea Tuesday night without giving any notice. The strategic bombers’ night flight over the peninsula marks the second time following an earlier one on Sept. 23. The bombers are expected to continue their flights in two-to-three-week intervals to pressure North Korea. The USS Tucson, a Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine, is anchored at the naval base in Jinhae, Changwon.

Core strategic assets of the U.S. Armed Forces are swiftly gathering on the peninsula. The Pentagon must have taken these actions after it briefed President Donald Trump on various options that it could take to prevent further nuclear provocations from North Korea. In a rare move, the White House made it public, and after the North vowed to react strongly, the Korean Peninsula is teetering on the brink of war.

The Moon Jae-in administration’s diplomatic and security lineup is nowhere to be seen. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha’s presence is not being felt. The same goes for the head of the National Security Office, Chung Eui-yong. We wonder if they are really communicating with their U.S. counterparts or offering straightforward advice to their boss at the Blue House without consulting Moon’s liberal aides.

More worrisome is Moon’s perception of the grim reality. In a luncheon Tuesday with leaders of other branches of the government, he confessed the situation did not allow South Korea to play a leading role. Admittedly, the tension stems from a chicken game between North Korea and the United States. But the president must relegate his power to diplomatic and security officials to tackle the challenges in a concerted manner.

Moon repeatedly pledged to respond to North Korea’s provocations. But he soon proposed dialogue with the recalcitrant regime. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s persistent provocations owe much to Moon’s gestures of appeasement. As a result, South Korea has lost the United States’ trust, even amid heightened tension. If Moon continues to act like that, Washington will increasingly provoke Pyongyang on its own, followed by more provocations from North Korea, which could push the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war.

To avoid a catastrophe, the government must closely communicate with the Trump administration to put maximum pressure on North Korea. That’s the only way for the North to come to the negotiating table. Now is not the time for dialogue.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 12, Page 30
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