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Off to a bad start

July 22,2017
North Korea splashed icy water on South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s rapprochement offers — dubbed the “Berlin Initiative” after a speech Moon made there earlier in the month — as calls mount for tougher actions against the defiant leadership in Pyongyang.

Pyongyang did not even respond to Seoul’s proposal to hold military talks Friday, intended as a first step to ease security tensions and renew inter-Korean dialogue.

The Defense Ministry renewed the offer and gave his North Korean counterpart another week to R.S.V.P., according to Moon Sang-gyun, spokesman for the ministry.

Pyongyang also ignored a proposal by the Unification Ministry to hold talks to resume reunions of families separated during the Korean War.

The cold shoulder is unsurprising, given the audacious ways of young North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who wants to directly deal with Washington — and keep Seoul in the cold. Perhaps Moon has been rash in its proposals for talks.

The government may have wanted to act fast to underscore Moon’s shifting of policy towards North Korea. It should have made preliminary steps and worked out post-meeting measures before it proposed such important meetings.

As result, Seoul’s initiative received a chilly response from its allies too, Washington and Tokyo, as they were not fully consulted in advance. Seoul failed to carefully consider the international conditions as well as those on the ground on the Peninsula. Seoul lost out instead of gaining through its overtures to Pyongyang.

The international mood towards North Korea is not propitious for the Moon government. In recent economic talks with Beijing, Washington warned that it would impose additional sanctions on Chinese enterprises and individuals involved with North Korea.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a bill restricting North Korea’s overseas financial transactions and opposing any reopening of the inter-Korean industrial park in Kaesong.

Moreover, foreign media reports that North Korea may be preparing new ballistic missile launches from land and beneath the sea. North Korea would hardly be expected to sit down for military talks with South Korea while preoccupied with its provocative programs.
The government must become less idealistic. A presidential vision is important, but so is a realistic focus.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 22, Page 26