Cutting the knot

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Cutting the knot

The Moon Jae-in administration announced that it is determined to resolve all the complex issues involving North Korea’s nuclear weapons program with a single stroke. A key official at the Blue House on Wednesday hinted at the possibility of employing the means used by Alexander the Great to deal with the Gordian Knot.

Instead of resorting to a step-by-step approach to address the nuclear conundrum, which has not worked in the past, the Moon administration plans to resolve it in a comprehensive way — tackling the challenges of denuclearization of North Korea, a declaration to end the state of war between South and North Korea and striking a peace deal with Pyongyang all at the same time.

South Korea and other parties have long failed to address the North Korean nuclear problem as they used a compensation system for North Korea in which they offered aid corresponding to the actions it took. The Moon administration seeks to negotiate a big deal with Pyongyang after putting all the key issues on the table.

Such a drastic approach could be worth considering on the government’s part particularly ahead of an upcoming inter-Korean summit in April and another one between North Korea and the United States in the following month.

If such a novel solution is to work, however, the government must take the issue of verification very seriously. Seoul must ensure that Pyongyang keeps its promise for denuclearization as transparently as possible. Otherwise, North Korea will most likely make nuclear weapons behind the scenes. After making plutonium-based nuclear weapons, North Korea now boasts of its capability to produce them from enriched uranium, which is simpler and even harder to detect. As a result, it would be of no use if international inspectors cannot find uranium enrichment facilities deeply hidden in mountains.

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered his dovish Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to resign and nominated hawkish CIA Director Mike Pompeo to take the helm of U.S. foreign policy ahead of his own summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. If the inter-Korean summit and the following summit between Trump and Kim end without tangible results in denuclearizing the rogue state, the United States would likely take military action against North Korea. If the Moon administration really wants to avert disaster on the Korean Peninsula, it must exert all efforts to find effective ways to denuclearize North Korea in a completely verifiable way.

JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 16, Page 30
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