A critical week

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A critical week

Still flushed and fatigued from the excitement of his three-day visit to North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is wasting no time on the diplomatic front. He will fly to the United States on Saturday to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday and deliver a speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. During his tight schedule, he must get full support from the United States and the international community for the landmark agreements he made at two inter-Korean summits to expedite denuclearization through dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington.

A lot is on Moon’s plate, but he doesn’t have to worry about a cold shoulder in New York. Trump wrote on Twitter that the two Koreas have made “tremendous progress,” and the hawkish mood in Washington has softened after Kim pledged actual and verifiable steps toward denuclearization.

North Korea and the United States still differ greatly on the terms. Pyongyang wants “corresponding actions” like a war-ending declaration while Washington continues to insist that denuclearization must come first. That is why Moon’s mediating role is crucial.

What Moon and Trump agree to in New York could determine the future of the Korean Peninsula. Moon said he had other details to share that were not announced publicly. In order to convince Trump and the hawks in Washington, those items must specifically be a request for North Korea to hand over a list of its nuclear materials and verify the dismantlement of weapons. Kim must follow through with actions to show he is sincere.

Trump is expected to reveal his response to North Korea when he stands on the UN podium on Tuesday after a summit with Moon. On the same podium one year ago, he threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. We sincerely hope to hear peaceful overtures from him this time around.

In the backdrop, senior officials from Pyongyang and Washington are preparing for a renewed round of dialogue. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho at the UN General Assembly in New York. Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, could also meet North Korean officials in Vienna, where the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is headquartered.

Next week could be another turning point for the Korean Peninsula. Moon must demonstrate his worth as a mediator. At the same time, he must be mindful not to loosen our security posture and military alliance with Washington in a hurried pursuit of peace. Denuclearization and security should be the top priority no matter what.

JoongAng Sunday, Sept. 22, Page 34
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