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Denuclearization is top priority

Sept 18,2018
President Moon Jae-in heads to another historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang following in the footsteps of presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. But Moon may be less hopeful than his predecessors as to whether the third summit can be a watershed moment in the denuclearization of North Korea, improved inter-Korean relations and peace on the Korean Peninsula. Despite two previous summits with Kim, Moon still faces a serious deadlock on the denuclearization front.

Political circles have high expectations for opening a new era of peace and coexistence on the Korean Peninsula. But simply reaffirming Kim’s will to denuclearize is meaningless. The Associated Press pointed out that Moon faces tough challenges in the summit. Hardline Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham also warned that if North Korea plays tricks with President Donald Trump, it will suffer huge losses. It all boils down to a call for Pyongyang to carry out denuclearization irrespective of all the inter-Korean cooperation such as reunions of separated families, opening of a liaison office in Kaesong and discussions about renovating old railways and roads in the North.

Moon and Kim will have to tackle three issues in their meetings from Tuesday to Thursday: developing South-North relations; denuclearization; and easing military tension to end the Korean War. The Moon administration seems to prioritize improving inter-Korean ties rather than forcing North Korea to denuclearize. The government is bringing chief executives of Samsung, SK, Hyundai and LG and others to Pyongyang to help develop the North Korean economy.

But unless North Korea takes sincere action to denuclearize, everything will be for nought. Without the North’s denuclearization, inter-Korean economic cooperation is impossible. It will only harm international sanctions on North Korea and cause schisms in our alliance. Unless the nuclear threat is resolved, it will rather trigger an unprecedented security crisis on the peninsula.

A rushed declaration of the end of the Korean War could lead to a critical weakening of the decades-old South Korean-U.S. defense system if it is followed by nullification of the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea, a permanent ending of joint military drills, disbanding of the United Nations Command and withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea. We would be voluntarily helping North Korea achieve its ultimate goal. We urge the government to be prudent so as not to invite a new security crisis.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 18, Page 30