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Close consultation is a must

Mar 23,2017
North Korea’s nuclear development and missile launches ring loud alarm bells in the Korean Peninsula and the United States. The North has once again test-fired a ballistic missile from Wonsan on the east coast. Despite the botched launch Wednesday, it reconfirmed Pyongyang’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons. The possibility of testing an advanced missile pushed the U.S. to turn increasingly hawkish toward the North.

America’s hard-line stance is palpable everywhere. In Monday’s address in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. President Donald Trump said that what’s happening in North Korea is “disgraceful.” Earlier on Sunday, he was displeased at the North’s recent test of an advanced engine for an ICBM. Christopher Ashley Ford, senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counter-proliferation at the White House, suggested a change in the Trump administration’s North Korea policy by saying that we will see something new down the road.

Such tough positioning has spread to Congress. In a meeting Tuesday with Kim Young-woo, chairman of the National Defense Committee, John McCain, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, said that if North Korea poses a serious threat to U.S. security, an argument for a preemptive strike will gain momentum, adding that the U.S. has many options before taking that path.

In the meantime, a super-strong bill aimed at sanctioning the North to cut off its financial network was proposed in the House on Monday. The sanctions include a ban on employing North Korean workers overseas, a block on the North’s online trading and gambling sites and a blockade of the North’s oil imports and petrochemical products.

As North Korea rests on China for most of its oil needs, it will be completely paralyzed as soon as China closes its oil pipeline. On top of the full-fledged sanctions, the U.S. on Wednesday conducted an air strike drill by sending a B-1B Stealth bomber to the Korean Peninsula from Guam.

All the developments are attributed to North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions. Washington cannot simply shrug off its increasingly dangerous saber-rattling. If it becomes a de facto nuclear power, even China cannot control it. That’s why Washington is considering even tougher sanctions and possible military action.

North Korea must stop its nuclear and missile developments and Seoul must closely watch the swift change in the peninsula. It is time for both allies to have thorough discussions before the U.S. takes measures against the North.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 22, Page 30