The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
The worst nightmare has come true. On the night of Oct. 10, we witnessed the cruel reality of the Korean Peninsula peace process ardently promoted by the Moon Jae-in administration. During the North’s military parade to mark the foundation of the Workers’ Party, a super-large intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), supposedly powerful enough to hit the U.S. mainland, was displayed. On Sept. 28 and Oct. 8, Moon made repeated appeals to North Korea to declare a formal end to the Korean War, but Pyongyang responded with a new missile, possibly carrying multiple warheads.
The Korean Peninsula peace process — destined to be a failure with the end of the Trump administration early next year — is a kind of appeasement policy. The key is accepting the North’s demands and pleasing the regime to stop a war for the time being. Its fatal weakness is that it actually fuels Pyongyang’s ambition, rather than stopping it. We have seen a precedent. Before World War II, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain accepted the demands of Adolf Hitler and faced severe attacks in return.
Winston Churchill, who protested the passive policy of Chamberlain, said that appeasement is a precious way of accomplishing peace, but meaningless when it is produced out of weakness and fear.
“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last,” he said.
In other words, the key to an appeasement policy’s success is the power of a country. When it is not strong and just makes concessions, you will be looked down on by enemies.
And yet, Moon is obsessed with inter-Korean exchanges because he thinks he can resolve the nuclear issues with dialogues. In 2018, three inter-Korean summits took place, but sometimes a small success works as a poison to hinder a larger mission.
There is an idea called the Icarus Paradox. In Greek mythology, Icarus and his father, Daedalus, were in prison. Daedalus made a set of wings using bird feathers and wax and they escaped the prison. Despite his father’s advice, Icarus flew too close to the son, the wax melted and he plummeted to his death. The story shows that confidence from a small success can bring about a larger failure.
When U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo visited the North in 2018 and asked Kim Jong-un if he has a genuine intention to dismantle nuclear arms, Kim responded that as he is a father, he does not want his son to live with nuclear weapons. It was a touching response.
Moon and Kim spent 12 hours during the first Panmunjom summit and another two hours in the second summit. During their third summit in Pyongyang, they were together most of the three days. Moon probably heard more emotional remarks from Kim. It is understandable that Moon trusts Kim’s words.
Even if Kim does not want a war and is willing to give up his nuclear weapons, Moon must remember one thing: A cruel war can take place with a small incident. World War I, which resulted in 25 million casualties, was triggered by the assassination of the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne by a Bosnian Serb.
To stop an unexpected incident triggering a war, we should have the power to stop North Korea even thinking about attacking us.
It is a great mistake to believe that the Moon administration can accomplish the denuclearization of North Korea through assistance and negotiation alone.
Even if you have managed to make a snowman, it does not necessarily mean that you can build a house out of snow.