A big backfire

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A big backfire

Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister and vice director of the Workers’ Party, has issued a statement denouncing the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise after a preliminary drill to prepare for the computer-simulated Combined Command Post Training (CCPT) began Tuesday. The statement defining the drill as a “preparation for war” and a “betraying act” throws cold water on the possibility of resuming talks after the restoration last month of military communication lines between South and North Korea. Kim’s threat to augment North Korea’s capability to wage a pre-emptive strike and her description of the joint drill as “a self-destructive act” only helps deepen tension on the Korean Peninsula.

Kim Yo-jong took a step further by demanding America withdraw “its troops and weapons for war” from South Korea. Since confirming South Korea’s submissive attitude after her earlier threat over South Korea’s dispatching of propaganda leaflets across the border, she has been ratcheting up the volume of her warnings.

That can be attributed to the Moon Jae-in administration’s docile compliance with her demands. After her warning last year of deteriorated inter-Korean relations, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) hurriedly passed a bill banning the sending of anti-North Korea materials across the border. Recently, 74 lawmakers from the DP and splinter parties demanded a suspension of the drill. These reactions send North Korea the wrong message.

All the chaos over the joint drill primarily resulted from the government’s reactions. Though the drill was reduced a bit as a result of Kim’s threat, what the government received in return was only a denouncement from North Korea. In the process, internal schisms in the ruling front were fully exposed. Washington certainly would not welcome such strange developments in South Korea. Its ally’s kowtowing to Kim only backfired.

Such a weird farce must not be repeated. The joint drill should be conducted unwaveringly until North Korea denuclearizes and security threats disappear. The two allies must maximize the effect of the drill. Unless Pyongyang is proven to be determined to denuclearize, they must return to the mobilization of armed forces as in the past.

Any government must pursue inter-Korean dialogue and provide humanitarian aid to the North if necessary within the boundaries of international sanctions. But it must not compromise national security just to talk with North Korea. The government must draw a clear line between what it can accept and what it can’t. It must reject the North’s blackmail. That’s the only way to prevent a major miscalculation.
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