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A delicate balance

May 18,2017
Following its unanimous approval Monday of a joint statement denouncing North Korea’s repeated launches of ballistic missiles and a warning of upcoming additional sanctions, the UN Security Council discussed details of the sanctions in an emergency meeting Tuesday. The United States is ready to call for a restriction of oil supplies to the North and a ban on hiring North Korean workers overseas, not to mention blocking the North from exporting coal as agreed earlier. Uncle Sam is prepared to impose even tougher sanctions that demand UN member nations sever their diplomatic relations with North Korea.

The United States says it will punish North Korea if it provokes again. However, as it already test-fired ballistic missiles eight times this year, Washington has come up with stronger threats to prevent additional provocations by putting pressure on Pyongyang in advance.

We take special note of the remarks by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that the Donald Trump administration is willing to have dialogue with North Korea — but not until Pyongyang stops its nuclear development and other tests. That means the Trump administration has eased its conditions for dialogue from “abandoning all nuclear programs” to a freezing of them.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has already reassured the Kim Jong-un regime of its security by announcing that Washington will not pursue four options; regime change, destroying the regime, acceleration of unification of the Korean Peninsula and the marching of troops across the 38th parallel. Therefore, the U.S. government’s additional sanctions and eased preconditions for dialogue can be seen as an intent to bring the recalcitrant state to the negotiation table through a reinforced “carrot and stick” approach.

Washington is reacting to remarks in Oslo last week by Choe Son-hui, director-general of the North America bureau of North Korea’s foreign ministry, in which she said Pyongyang would suspend its nuclear tests and missile launches in exchange for the U.S.’s ending of hostile policies toward the North, lifting of sanctions and a peace treaty with Pyongyang.

The delicate shift in Washington’s position coincides with President Moon Jae-in’s position that South Korea will react to North Korea step-by-step if it first freezes its nuclear program. We hope both sides have full discussions about those tricky points before a summit between Moon and Trump in Washington next month.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 18, Page 34