Perfectly persistent diplomacy
The author is a rotating correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Three years ago, I wrote a column entitled “Trump’s Mouth, Moon Jae-in’s A4 Sheet” in which I expressed disapproval that our president always held a crib sheet to read from at summits. “It is a problem not to memorize or make short remarks. It can lower the authority and trustworthiness of the leader,” I wrote. When the column was published, Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyem strongly protested. He had three points: the A4 sheets in the president’s hands were proof of how thoroughly he prepared his remarks; we had come this far thanks to Moon’s authority; and that the president graduated second in class from the Judicial Research and Training Institute.
Though it was a strange explanation, I believed Moon would make better efforts in the future. That was naïve. His recent meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Vietnamese President Nguyen at the United Nations were reported by the foreign press and on YouTube. “I hope today’s summit will lead to further development of friendly cooperation between the two countries.” “Congratulations on being elected president at the National Convention earlier this year.” As I saw him reading these remarks from papers, I realized he was a steady president, indeed.
There is another consistency: Moon’s constant courtship of North Korea. At the UN General Assembly, he proposed to declare an end to the Korean War. It is the third time for this proposal after 2018 and 2020. He consistently defines it as the “entrance to peace negotiation.” But the United States — North Korea’s counterpart in denuclearization talks — doesn’t think of the declaration as the entrance. America has adhered to that position since the Hanoi collapsed. But Moon still champions it.
The consistency of seeing only what you want to see is not an admirable one. Even as North Korea continues provocations with cruise missiles and ballistic missiles — and although the IAEA warns about the “progress in North Korea’s nuclear program at full speed” — Moon brushed such things off as “low-intensity tension escalation.” Even after the North’s test-firing of a newly developed hypersonic missile, he merely said, “It’s regrettable.” He turns a blind eye to the North’s endless provocations.
But Moon cheers over every “positive statement” by Kim Yo-jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, despite tricky “conditions” attached such as withdrawal of hostile policies and an easing of sanctions. Since when have Kim’s words been interpreted as a “meaningful statement” and “good sign” as long as they do not contain terms of abuse such as an “American parrot,” “boiled head of a cow,” and “stupid”? As Henry Kissinger once said, a leader’s job is to build a bridge between his ideals and the reality of a country. That’s the cold truth. Let’s look back. Has there been such a bridge in Moon’s diplomacy with North Korea, Japan, and the United States?
What was the intention of U.S. President Joe Biden, who begged the outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to come to Washington without meeting Moon, who was in New York? As Biden is in trouble over the U.S. Forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, he wanted to show off the unity of the new alliance of Quad, which is more important than talks with North Korea or South Korea’s proposal of an end-of-war declaration. Moon should have been in Washington.
The Moon administration, which cares about China, has kept a distance saying that it has not received any offer from the U.S. to join the Quad. But it is a reality. Korea’s foreign minister said, “China’s offensive diplomacy is natural.” China’s state-run Global Times praised it. Moon’s lack of diplomatic sense and audacity is consistent indeed.