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Clouds over the peninsula

Feb 03,2017
In Tuesday’s U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, committee chair Bob Corker emphasized in his opening statement the need to re-examine the U.S. strategy toward North Korea against the urgency of the regime claiming to be ready to launch an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the United States with possibly miniaturized nuclear device. Although diplomacy, deterrence and sanctions remain important, the United States should explore policy alternatives now that “we find ourselves staring down the barrel of a North Korean ICBM,” he said.

Among the alternatives, he questioned whether the United States should be prepared to preemptively strike a North Korean ICBM on a launch pad or pursue a policy that pro-actively pursues regime change through a nonmilitary means. In his confirmation hearing, Rex Tillerson, nominee for secretary of state, called North Korea “a grave threat to world security.” Defense Secretary James Mattis said in his confirmation hearing that nothing should be off the table when asked if a pre-emptive strike was an option.

The economic front is equally jittery. In a meeting with pharmaceutical executives on Tuesday, Trump pledged to end unfair “global freeloading,” blaming excess regulations and devaluations by other countries for trade discrepancies. “You look at what China’s doing, you look at what Japan has done over the years … They play the money market, they play the devaluation market and we sit there like a bunch of dummies,” he said. His trade chief, Peter Navarro, who heads Trump’s National Trade Council, also irked Germany by accusing Berlin of using a “grossly undervalued” euro to “exploit” the United States and the rest of the European Union.

The new administration was blatantly picking fights with its major trade partners by accusing them of undervaluing their currencies. Trump is out to redesign the global trade order and started by signing executive orders to leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Washington’s policy shift directly affects Seoul. The option of a preemptive strike on North Korea escalates tension on the Korean Peninsula. Korea would also be hit hard by a currency war between its two major export markets. This cannot be ignored, regardless of President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment. The legislature and government must join forces to fight for the national interest.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 2, Page 30