A mistimed signalPowerful American weaponry is descending on the Korean Peninsula ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s first visit to South Korea. The United States has moved the USS Nimitz, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, to the West Pacific from the Middle East, following the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Theodore Roosevelt. 15 F-35A multi-role stealth fighters, stationed in an air base in Utah, flew to Kaneda Air Base in Japan. The beefing up of strategic assets is a result of the heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. They are aimed at protecting the U.S. president during his tour to Asia, which includes stops in Japan, South Korea and China, from Nov. 3 through Nov. 14.
North Korea has been silent for over a month since it fired an intermediate ballistic missile over the islands of Japan into the North Pacific on Sept. 15. But the recalcitrant state is known to be developing a solid-fuel engine for an advanced missile even harder to detect in advance due to the shorter time needed to launch it. If a new engine for a missile is developed, the next step is a test-firing of it. It is only a matter of time before the North makes another missile provocation.
In such a volatile situation, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon requested Pyongyang to take the necessary steps to ensure the safe passage of our businessmen who had run factories at the Kaesong Industrial Complex across the border so that our government can permit them to visit the premises, which were shut down last year during the conservative Park Geun-hye administration because of the North’s persistent nuclear and missile provocations. The unification ministry under the liberal Moon Jae-in government made the request to help South Korean entrepreneurs visit their factories after suspicions arose that North Koreans were operating them on their own.
North Korea should not run the factories without our permission. We fully understand our entrepreneurs’ nervousness about their factories.
But our unification minister’s request could give Pyongyang the wrong signal that our government hopes to reopen the complex. It will be best if the nuclear issue can be solved peacefully. But as long as Kim Jong-un refuses our government’s proposal for dialogue, the only option left is building pressure on North Korea. Our unification ministry needs a more prudent approach.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 27, Page 38