How to be ignoredNorth Korea has fired short-range missiles and rockets into the East Sea seven times since May — five times over the past couple of weeks alone — which threatens South Korea, not Japan or the United States. Pyongyang has been testing advanced weapons it developed at immense cost despite international sanctions. Its new short-rage ballistic missiles — upgraded from Russia’s Iskander missiles and capable of avoiding interceptors thanks to their eccentric flight path — can be equipped with a nuclear warhead. The next step is their deployment on a battlefield.
More alarming is the reaction of the Blue House and our military. The Ministry of National Defense has not even issued a warning, and President Moon Jae-in avoided National Security Council (NSC) meetings despite the North’s five latest missile provocations. Instead, one meeting was presided over by Chung Eui-yong, director of the National Security Office at the Blue House. Even when Russian military aircraft violated our airspace over the Dokdo islets for the first time, an NSC meeting was not held.
Even when North Korea insulted them with rude words, the Blue House and military have kept their silence. Even though the insults of the Blue House translate into a brazen challenge against South Korea, it remains patient. In fact, it was then-opposition leader Moon who wrote on Facebook in 2016 that North Korea’s jibes at the leader of South Korea were the same as insulting the entire South Korean people.
If officials of the Moon administration shrug off the North’s provocations as mere protests of joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises, that is a bigger problem. Some in the government believe that North Korea and the United States would resume dialogue for denuclearization once the ongoing drill is over. But Pyongyang has demonstrated the will to exclude Seoul from its talks with Washington even if the dialogue resumes. To make matters worse, U.S. President Donald Trump appears to side with Pyongyang, saying its short-range missiles do not pose a threat to the U.S.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un seems to be convinced that this is the perfect time to deal with Trump directly and drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington. If the Moon administration leaves the situation unattended, no one knows what will happen next. The government must change its policy of prioritizing dialogue with North Korea. It must react properly to the North’s provocations and rebuild its alliance with America. Otherwise, it will continue to be ignored by North Korea.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 13, Page 30