A love affair with PyongyangAppearing at the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee of the National Assembly on Tuesday, Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun said that the reactivation of the Yongbyon nuclear facility in North Korea does not constitute a violation of inter-Korean agreements. He could make such arguments as a scholar, but must not do so as a senior government official. The reopening of the facility is directly related to the production of nuclear materials to make more nuclear weapons.
Yet Choi was busy forgiving the recalcitrant state as his boss — President Moon Jae-in — has done in the past. Choi may have based his remarks on the 2018 agreements between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in their summits, which did not specify the Yongbyon nuclear facility. But Choi interpreted the agreements too narrowly so as not to provoke North Korea. The April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration between Moon and Kim made it clear that both sides strive to create a “Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons through complete denuclearization.”
How could a top South Korean official deny North Korea’s violation of the agreement on Pyongyang’s behalf even when the facility reactivation goes against denuclearization? The 2018 declaration clearly mentioned the need for both sides to “thoroughly implement all past agreements,” including the 1991 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
According to a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, signs of cooling water being released from a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon were detected early July after North Korea resumed spent fuel reprocessing to extract plutonium from February through July. Our government was certainly aware of these saber-rattling moves through intelligence cooperation with the U.S., yet the government kept mum.
Instead, it was busy hyping up an ephemeral restoration on July 27 of the inter-Korean military communication lines. But buoyed by the highly-calculated move by North Korea, more than 70 lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party (DP) rushed to call for the delay of a South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise. The government conspicuously scale back the size of the drill scheduled for August.
While the Blue House, government and DP are engrossed in inflating their fantasy about North Korea, the North continued to increase nuclear materials for weapons. Yet the vice foreign minister nonchalantly sided with North Korea. If the government continues keeping a low profile, it can never achieve the denuclearization of North Korea.