A precarious situation

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A precarious situation

After North Korea showed a willingness to participate in the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, South Korea is busy trying to find effective ways to form single teams for the games and at the same time devise a formula to address the North Korean nuclear threat. Regarding North Korea’s Olympic participation, news reports say that Pyongyang plans to send a large-scale delegation consisting of over 500 athletes, officials and cheerleaders. The United Nations already passed a resolution to stop armed conflicts around the world during the Winter Games in South Korea.

Backpedaling on his threats of “fire and fury” aimed at the rogue state’s relentless nuclear and missile tests, U.S. President Donald Trump has set the tone for peace on the Korean Peninsula. In Thursday’s interview with the Wall Street Journal, he boasted, “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un.” On the same day, Chinese President Xi Jinping joined the chorus. In a phone conversation with President Moon, Xi showed interest in the ripening environment for dialogue between Seoul and Pyongyang ahead of the Olympiad.

What has not changed is North Korea’s contradictory behavior. According to 38 North, a website devoted to analysis of North Korea, U.S. commercial satellites show images of North Korean soldiers digging another tunnel in the western section of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site since December. If the satellite photos are true, North Korea is likely preparing its seventh nuclear test.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited Thursday the National Institute of Science and a residential area for scientists and engineers dedicated to satellite development. Kim underscored that North Korea can withstand international sanctions for another 10 years or even 100 years thanks to its scientific and technological capabilities.

North Korea is reportedly bracing for the launch of an Unha-4 rocket loaded with a satellite. Security analysts think it is disguising ICBMs as rockets for commercial purposes. During the high-level inter-Korean meeting in Panmunjom Tuesday, North Korea’s representatives insisted that Seoul and Washington stop joint military exercises. Pyongyang takes the position that denuclearization cannot be a subject of discussion, no matter what.

Given such a precarious situation, our government must pay close attention to any signs of provocation from the recalcitrant state even while having dialogue with it. We hope that North Korea stops provocative actions during the talks and scraps its nuclear weapons. That’s the only way for North Korea to avoid a catastrophe.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 13, Page 26
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