Wisdom is neededA five-member delegation led by President Moon Jae-in’s National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong visits Pyongyang today to try to bring back some momentum to the denuclearization of North Korea. The denuclearization process — which gained traction six months ago when the same delegation visited Pyongyang to arrange the April 27 summit between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Panmunjom — is at an impasse.
Four days before the envoy’s second visit to Pyongyang, Moon reportedly took pains to find some kind of breakthrough in the nuclear deadlock by holding an urgent meeting with ministers handling foreign affairs and security. We understand his agony. The high-level meeting at the Blue House reflects the gravity of the situation.
The biggest stumbling block in the denuclearization talks is deep-rooted distrust between North Korea and the United States. Washington increasingly doubts the sincerity of Pyongyang because it refuses to submit a list of its nuclear weapons and a timetable for denuclearization. Pyongyang is blaming the United States for not taking measures such as a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War even though it already took such steps as releasing U.S. hostages detained in the North, shutting down a major nuclear test site and returning the remains of U.S. soldiers who fell during the war.
When taking such a mismatch into account, it could be natural for the South Korean representatives to think of a compromise with the regime in Pyongyang. But more importantly, they must remind Kim Jong-un of the grim reality that North Korea could invite an unparalleled catastrophe if it once again resorts to its signature deception campaign to buy more time. Considering the North’s recent reactions, it is obvious that it wants to use South Korea as a lever to put pressure on the United States — a strategy Pyongyang has been employing to bring about schisms in the decades-old alliance in times of crisis.
Seoul must not be tempted to push for improved inter-Korean relations at the cost of its alliance with America. Otherwise, South Korea will most likely end up dancing to the tune of North Korea. The Moon administration’s strategy of achieving the goal of denuclearization through improving inter-Korean ties also seems very dangerous. Head envoy Chung made the very remarks which could irrevocably damage our alliance with Uncle Sam.
If the envoys distort and deliver Pyongyang’s message to Washington out of sheer desperation to make denuclearization talks stay afloat, it will only help the United States lose trust in South Korea. The representatives must keep in mind that a nuclear crisis can revisit us at any time if they behave in the wrong way in Pyongyang.