Rushing headlongAs a presidential candidate in 2016, Moon Jae-in unhesitatingly chose North Korea over the United States as his first destination if elected. Moon showed a prudent reaction to the proposal for a summit in Pyongyang from Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, who visited South Korea to deliver a letter from her brother at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Moon toned down his desire for a summit. “Let’s create the environment for a summit,” he said.
That reminds us of Moon’s New Year’s address, in which he welcomed a summit to improve inter-Korean relations and resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, but with three strings attached: that he would not accept a summit for a summit’s sake; conditions should be met first; and a summit must produce some tangible results.
This time, a summit must achieve the goal of denuclearization. In that sense, what is more important for the Moon administration is sending an envoy to Washington, not Pyongyang. Moon had a 160-minute conversation Saturday with Kim and her company in the Blue House. He must share with our ally what was discussed in the meeting.
Our diplomacy with the United States does not seem to follow the remarkable pace of inter-Korean contacts. Washington harbors strong suspicions about the Moon administration being dragged into North Korea’s peace offensives. But our government is overly complacent. No administration official accompanied U.S. Vice Presient Mike Pence when he visited the headquarters of the Second Fleet of our Navy.
At a time when the United States is very sensitive about our government’s rapprochement with the recalcitrant state, our unification ministry is preparing to send $8 million in humanitarian aid to North Korea.
Without progress in Washington-Pyongyang relations, inter-Korean summits cannot achieve much. The first summit in 2000 was preceded by the adoption of the Perry Process, which stipulated the North’s suspension of missile tests, U.S. lifting of sanctions and the North’s stopping of nuclear and missile development. Our second summit in 2007 was also possible after an earlier agreement between Washington and Pyongyang to supply 1 million tons in diesel in return for the North’s closure of nuclear facilities. Sufficient communication with Washington is a precondition for a successful summit between Moon and Kim.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 13, Page 30