Endless provocationsOn Oct. 31, shortly after the funeral of President Moon Jae-in’s mother, North Korea announced its successful firing of two “super-large multiple rockets” whose shooting range reaches 370 kilometers (230 miles). The advanced rockets can strike our military’s combined headquarters at Gyeryongdae, South Chungcheong, as well as a close U.S. air base where F-35s are stationed. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reportedly feels most threatened by the existence of the cutting-edge stealth fighter jets. After the launch, Pyongyang bragged about the capabilities of the new rockets to “devastate any targets of our enemy.”
North Korea has tested a new type of its short-range missiles, modeled after a Russian Iskander, 12 times since May. Nevertheless, National Security Director Chung Eui-yong brushed if off. Appearing in the National Assembly on Friday, he said the missiles can hardly be regarded as a “serious threat to our national security.” He went on to say that our military is also test-firing missiles and that our missiles are superior to the North’s.
North Korea has been persistently developing ballistic missiles despite a series of United Nations resolutions against it. Under such circumstances, how could he compare North Korea to South Korea, which has been testing missiles under international guidelines. Moreover, Pyongyang has stabbed us in the back by firing the rockets only a day after it sent condolences for the passing of Moon’s mother.
Asked by an opposition lawmaker if he really thought the missile launch was something trivial, Chung said the missiles were fired after his boss returned to the Blue House. No matter how desperately the Blue House pursues dialogue with the recalcitrant regime in Pyongyang, he must not demonstrate such a weak attitude in the face of such brazen provocations from Pyongyang.
The United States re-designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism just a day after the firing of the rockets. Once labeled as a terrorist state, a country suffers a ban on trade and loans from the World Bank. Washington reaffirmed its position not to accept Seoul’s request for easing up on sanctions. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defined the two rockets as the same ones that North Korea has fired in the past.
The Moon administration must read the U.S. reaction very carefully. It must not adhere to its blind hope that inter-Korean economic cooperation will gain momentum if America eases sanctions. The government must not forget that the only way to achieve peace with North Korea is a strong reaction to its provocations.