We won’t get fooled again

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We won’t get fooled again

The Moon Jae-in administration welcomed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s address in which he expressed a willingness to send a North Korean delegation to the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and to hold a senior-level meeting with Seoul. Moon was excited by Kim’s dramatic turnaround in attitude.

If Kim’s offer really helps reduce tensions, we welcome it. Our unification minister has responded to Pyongyang’s peace offensive with a proposal to hold a high-level inter-Korean meeting at Panmunjom on Jan. 9.

But it is too early to expect North Korea to take the road to peace. North Korea has been secretly developing nuclear weapons even while negotiating for peace, as seen in its secret enrichment of weapons-grade uranium after the 1994 Geneva Agreement. It is expected to complete the technology for nuclear warhead-tipped ICBMs that can strike the mainland United States in a few months. Pyongyang may have decided on its peace offensive to buy time until the completion of that program. The government must not repeat the practice of providing hefty aid to North Korea.

Kim’s New Year’s address is a highly calculated move to fuel internal division in South Korea. The government and ruling Democratic Party wholeheartedly welcomed his proposal, but the opposition Liberty Korea Party and Bareun Party attacked it for being a ruse. Kim’s proposal can trigger a political clash in South Korea.

Another concern comes from a potential schism in the Korea-U.S. alliance. Despite the government’s explanation that it fully briefed Washington on the issue, Washington may go along only reluctantly. If dialogue with North Korea fails to bear tangible results, the government has only wasted time it can’t afford.

We urge the government not to repeat past liberal administrations’ mistakes. The international community’s sanctions have begun to bear fruit, albeit slowly, as witnessed in North Korea clandestinely smuggling in oil shipments via third parties. Even if Kim Jong-un threatens the world with nuclear war, he can never put it into action in the face of his own people’s outrage over hunger and a dearth of energy resources. Our government must strictly observe international sanctions.

The government also must stage the Winter Games successfully. The Olympiad to be held 30 years after the Seoul Summer Games will offer a chance for our nation’s further development. The government can only grab a chance at peace if it maintains a strong defense and sanctions along with international society.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 3, Page 30
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