Orange alertSouth Korea is shipping 200 tons of tangerines to North Korea by air as a token of appreciation after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent two tons of pine mushrooms for South Korean families who missed the opportunity to see relatives in the North during President Moon Jae-in’s visit to Pyongyang in September.
The question is whether the move had to take place now. Tensions are building due to the stalemate in denuclearization negotiations between the United States and North Korea. A senior-level meeting between the U.S. and North Korea was called off at the last minute. Despite talk of holding a second summit, the administration of Donald Trump has been keeping the pressure on Pyongyang.
In his Washington Post Op-ed on Nov. 9, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made it clear that the “United States will continue to exert unprecedented diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea.” During the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed that Beijing’s compliance and cooperation in enforcing United Nations sanctions will help in achieving a breakthrough in North Korean denuclearization.
Pyongyang has turned belligerent. The Chosun Shinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper published in Japan, said North Korea does not wish to continue dialogue if the United States prefers maintaining the status quo under the pretext of moderating the pace.
The shipment of tangerines amid renewed tensions between Washington and Pyongyang could worsen relations between Seoul and Washington over North Korean affairs.
The Jeju provincial government went as far as announcing it will examine the helicopter landing site atop Mount Halla after Moon floated the idea of inviting Kim for a climb on the iconic mountain on the southern island. Tensions are bound to grow again after the UN passes a U.S.-led resolution on North Korea human rights issues.
Seoul should watch its solo moves on North Korea lest it give the wrong impression to Washington and rest of the world.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 12, Page 30