+ A

Time to build pressure

Sept 01,2017
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to fire more missiles over Japan with the Pacific Ocean “as a target in the future.” It congratulated itself for the firing of the Hwasong-12 missile that flew over Japan into the Pacific Tuesday morning, saying it was a “meaningful prelude to containing Guam.” The UN Security Council unanimously passed a presidential statement condemning Tuesday’s launch as “outrageous.”
North Korea defied the chorus of renunciation from the Security Council members, backed by Russia and China, calling the actions “not just a threat to the region but to all United Nations member states,” and vowed to push ahead with its menacing and self-destructive campaign.

During telephone conversations with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Moon Jae-in agreed to “maximize” pressure on North Korea. He has yet to converse with U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump, on the other hand, had conversations with Abe every time North Korea made provocations. In their latest phone conversation, Trump promised the United States will be 100 percent with Japan. Moon has spoken with Trump by phone twice. It is not natural for the two allies to be so distant when tensions are at their worst since the war.

Experts predict North Korea will be able to complete developing long-range ballistic missiles with miniaturized nuclear warheads capable of entering the atmosphere next year. The government must put pressure on North Korea “to the maximum” and also seek China’s influence to stop further provocations. If diplomatic endeavors fail, there are only two options left — a war or a peace settlement between North Korea and the United States. Both would have devastating results for South Korea.

North Korea indicated there was room for dialogue with Washington. Seoul must fully install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense antimissile system and enforce unilateral sanctions on North Korea to show it means to “maximize” pressure.

Otherwise, South Korea will be elbowed aside in the future, Seoul will lose credibility with its traditional allies and be mocked by Pyongyang if it does not act on its strong words. It must be consistent and persistent in its messages and actions.

The appointments of ambassadors to key allies have failed to appease concerns on the security and foreign policy front. Economist Cho Yoon-je, named as the top envoy for Washington, former lawyer Noh Young-min for Beijing, and professor Lee Su-hoon for Tokyo have been recruited from Moon’s campaign team and lack the field experience and diplomatic sophistication needed to represent Seoul’s voice in such challenging times. The government must appoint experienced and well-connected bureaucratic diplomats under them to back the new ambassadors.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 31, Page 30