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Moon in the hot seat

July 06,2017
The long-range ballistic missile North Korea tested on the fourth of July was officially confirmed as an ICBM. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denounced the North’s test-launch, which poses a new threat to the United States and its allies. South Korean military authorities say they cannot confirm it as an ICBM due to uncertainty about the North’s atmospheric reentry technology. Nevertheless, the U.S. believes North Korea has crossed a red line.

Uncle Sam’s strong reaction to the test stems from the strategic significance of such a weapon. North Korea can load conventional weapons onto an ICBM, and possibly a nuclear warhead, to attack the U.S. mainland. At the current pace of development, North Korea will be able to make a ballistic missile that can hit the continental U.S. within this year. If it succeeds in miniaturizing a nuclear warhead, the worst-case scenario turns into reality.

What worries us is the uncertainty of whether the U.S. would defend us if North Korea attacks Seoul. We cannot be sure if the U.S. would risk a nuclear attack on New York or Los Angeles. A North Korean ICBM carrying a nuclear warhead is a game-changer.

But we have some time left because North Korea needs to extend its ICBM’s effective range. If we want to avoid such a nightmare, the international community under the leadership of the U.S. must ratchet up the level of pressure on the North so that it feels it acutely.

The United States can enforce a “secondary boycott” to block the North’s trading with any countries, or China can consider the idea of stopping oil supplies to the North. The U.S. intercepting North Korean missiles is another option.

Our government must prioritize pressure over dialogue and strongly join the international society’s movement toward reinforced sanctions. President Moon Jae-in has also turned to a hard-line stance by suggesting a joint ballistic missile drill with the United States. Before embarking on a trip to the Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, he expressed deep concern about the North’s missile launch.

At the height of this crisis, Moon must take advantage of the summit to build pressure on North Korea. In a July 7 meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he must urge Beijing to put more pressure on Pyongyang than ever before. At an upcoming trilateral summit with U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Moon must find an effective way to put pressure on the North.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 6, Page 30