Don’t get fooled again

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Don’t get fooled again

An inter-Korean summit is looming after a visit to South Korea by Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister. After she expressed hope for a meeting with President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang “at the earliest possible date,” Moon did not give a clear answer. But he will most likely accept the proposal given his repeated expressions of hopes for a summit with the North Korean leader.

We welcome a summit as long as both leaders can find a breakthrough in the deadlock over the North’s weapons development. No matter how tough it is, the nuclear crisis must be resolved through dialogue. A military option favored by some hard-liners at home and abroad will certainly take the lives of at least hundreds of thousands of people if it is carried out. International sanctions on North Korea are also aimed at bringing the recalcitrant state to the negotiating table.

Nevertheless, it is better to not hold the summit if it cannot produce some concrete results. Even if the meeting takes place, we could fall into Pyongyang’s trap. Moon underscored that he would not rush into dialogue for the sake of dialogue. If he fails to achieve tangible results from a summit, that only helps the North earn more time to develop its weapons. If Moon really wants to have a meaningful summit, he should be well aware of the background of the North’s proposal.

Kim Jong-un kicked off his charm offensive in his New Year’s address because of international sanctions. The likelihood of America taking a military option — a so-called “bloody nose” strike — also helped North Korea change course. In other words, the Kim regime is taking South Korea hostage to get over its ever-serious predicament from mounting political and economic pressure.

South Korea must not be dragged by North Korea to do whatever it wants. Even if Moon goes to Pyongyang for a summit, his administration must have sufficient negotiations with Pyongyang to achieve concrete results, including a promise from North Korea to freeze its weapons development.

Another condition for the summit is for the Moon administration to closely talk with Washington. As evidenced by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to South Korea, Washington has no intention of easing its hard-line policy toward Pyongyang. If any schism is found in the alliance, North Korea wins.

Pyongyang’s about-face shows that international sanctions are working. Seoul must not deviate from the sanctions front. Otherwise, it cannot take the driver’s seat in the peninsula issue.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 12, Page 30
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