A peace-blind former president

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A peace-blind former president

Former president Moon Jae-in stressed the importance of respecting and implementing a series of inter-Korean agreements, including the Sept. 19 military agreement he made with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang in 2018. Moon made the shocking remarks in a video message for a public discussion on the military agreement, on Sunday, a day before the fourth anniversary of his third summit with Kim. After his retirement in March, the former president expressed hope for being forgotten among the public. But he speaks up again and demands the current administration follow in his footsteps.

Contrary to his claim, our current security situation is far worse than at the time of his summits with Kim. North Korea has finished all preparations for its seventh nuclear test. Last week, it even threatened to use nuclear weapons against South Korea if its leadership faces a crisis in political and security terms.

Since the military agreement four years ago, North Korea has incessantly test-fired ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The North exploded the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong in 2020 without any consent from South Korea and is claiming the ownership of Mount Kumkang tourism facilities built by South Korea or dismantling some of them. Kim has not kept the promises he made with Moon in 2018.

The Yoon Suk-yeol administration demanded dialogue with North Korea to help encourage denuclearization through its bold initiative, but North Korea refused it. Instead, it adheres to nuclear weapons after defining itself as a nuclear weapons state. The Yoon administration’s ambitious plan to denuclearize North Korea included the “action for action” principle, but North Korea just brushed it off.

“Without dialogue, there is no peace,” said the former president. “A starting point for all dialogues is trust.” But it was North Korea that continues endangering our security by advancing its nuclear weapons after breaking its own promise. Under such circumstances, Democratic Party Chairman Lee Jae-myung joined the chorus. “Expensive peace is better than a winning war,” he said. No doubt peace is important, but a submissive peace without trust only led to a new provocation from Pyongyang.

For instance, the North shot a South Korean fisheries official in the Yellow Sea and burned his body in 2020. Yet, the Moon administration did nothing. Instead, it forcefully sent two North Korean defectors back to the North in 2019, a clear violation of human rights. Was that really what Moon meant by peace?

Now that North Korea refuses dialogue and ratchets up nuclear threats, the best solution is deterring nuclear threats from the North. Only then can peace arrive on the peninsula. In Washington last week, a third Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group meeting, involving vice-ministerial defense and foreign affairs officials, was held timely. The government must raise the level of trust in U.S. extended deterrence fast.
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