Don’t let down our guard

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Don’t let down our guard

South Korea pulled the plug on 40 propaganda loudspeakers along the heavily-armed border as the two Koreas prepare a historic summit at the truce village on Friday. The speakers, which were first put up on May 1, 1963, along the west front line, have been turned on and off over the years depending on changes in the inter-Korean relationship. This time, the Moon Jae-in administration switched them off in response to Pyongyang’s official announcement that North Korea will freeze its nuclear weapons program.

In a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party on Friday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced that he will shut down a nuclear test site in the northern region and stop conducting further nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. The gambit raises hope for genuineness in his commitment to denuclearization, but we cannot let our guard down.

In the meeting, Pyongyang fell short of mentioning denuclearization or dismantlement of nuclear materials or weapons. Instead, it said it will not use nuclear weapons “as long as there is no nuclear threat to us or provocation for use of nuclear weapons.” North Korea said its suspension of nuclear tests is “an important process in the campaign for global nuclear arms reduction” in a condescending language that could come out from a nuclear weapons state. It is hard to decipher the meaning — whether it is aimed for propaganda at home or suggesting Kim is coming to the negotiating table as the head of a nuclear arms state.

President Moon Jae-in welcomed the move as an “important decision towards complete denuclearization” and “a positive sign” towards successful summit talks between the two Koreas and between the United States and North Korea. But a freeze on nuclear tests and programs cannot ensure a path toward the ultimate goal of denuclearization.

How President Moon can persuade Kim to specifically dictate his will on denuclearization will decide the success of the upcoming summit meetings and scheme for denuclearization.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 24, Page 30
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