A comforting reminderIn a meeting in Singapore on Thursday on the sidelines of Asean meetings, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed the importance of the South Korea-U.S. alliance. Moon credited the “strong Korea-U.S. alliance” for bringing North Korea to dialogue and this year’s progress on denuclearization and improvement in ties between the South and North. Pence said the bilateral alliance stemmed from a common struggle of the people of two nations for freedom.
Given the history of the Korean Peninsula, there should be no question about the ties between South Korea and the United States. Yet the reminder is a comfort against the real and ongoing threat from North Korea regardless of our current reconciliatory mood. The National Intelligence Service in a National Assembly hearing acknowledged that it suspected North Korea was continuing its work to miniaturize nuclear materials for warheads. A group within the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies located 13 out of an estimated 20 clandestine missile operation bases in North Korea despite Pyongyang’s pledge to denuclearize.
Seoul and Washington differ on the issue of sanctions. Pence reiterated that Washington will work towards achieving the objective of “complete and verifiable irreversible denuclearization.” Although there was some progress, he pointed out that there was still a lot work to be done to achieve that “shared” long-term goal. It was a polite reminder that Seoul must not derail the sanctions for the goal of complete denuclearization. Washington disapproves of Seoul’s push for rail and road connections with the North. The two governments plan to hold a meeting on Nov. 20 to work out their differences. A U.S. Congress study claimed Beijing was mulling ways to shake the alliance between Seoul and Washington. Regardless of their differences, the two allies must stay true to their ties for the common goal of solving North Korean nuclear and other threats.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 16, Page 30