Alliance outweighs dialogue

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Alliance outweighs dialogue

President Moon Jae-in’s envoys to North Korea — National Security Office Head Chung Eui-yong and National Intelligence Service Chief Suh Hoon — embarked on a trip to Washington Thursday to brief their U.S. counterparts on their meeting with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un on Monday. Their mission is to deliver Kim’s undisclosed message and help Washington and Pyongyang have dialogue before North Korea should cross a red line.

The details of their “hidden cards” are not known, but they will most likely include proposals from North Korea to suspend its ICBM development or stop operating its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon or set free three U.S. citizens detained in the country. If Kim Jong-un really made such offers, the United States could be tempted to accept talks at least on an exploratory level. A foreign media outlet reported that Kim may even consider the idea of sending his younger sister Kim Yo-jong — who met with President Moon in the Blue House on the sidelines of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics — to Washington as a special envoy.

Given the significance of such attractive proposals from Kim Jong-un, Moon’s two envoys will almost certainly exert all efforts in Washington to achieve a long-awaited dialogue between the United States and North Korea. That raises concerns that they may try to overstate positive messages from Kim while arbitrarily skipping or downplaying negative messages. If that happens, it will only make worse the frozen ties between Washington and Pyongyang. Our messengers must be honest brokers.

The two envoys must not dismiss growing warnings that the United States must not be deceived by North Korea. The hawks in Donald Trump’s administration increasingly express concerns about the possibility of the Moon administration going weak on international sanctions on North Korea after taking North Korea’s peace offensive at face value. The emissaries must pay as much attention to reinforcing the alliance as delivering Kim’s message.

Kim Jong-un expressed a willingness to discuss denuclearization but with strings attached. They include U.S. assurances on reducing military threats and its guarantee of the survival of the regime. In other words, Pyongyang intends to scrap its nuclear weapons only when a condition like the withdrawal of U.S. Forces Korea is met. But we cannot accept such brazen demands. The two envoys must not make the mistake of shaking the foundations of our decades-old alliance.

JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 9, Page 34
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