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Talk about bad timing

Sept 15,2017
An official from the Ministry of Unification dropped bombshell remarks Thursday. He said the ministry plans to discuss ways to provide $8 million in aid to North Korea at a consultative meeting next Thursday for inter-Korean exchange and cooperation. The official said that the money, if approved, will be used for providing nutrition, vaccines and other medicines for undernourished North Korean children and pregnant women at the request of international relief agencies, including Unicef and the World Food Program.

When it comes to aid for our northern brethren, the more the better. But is this really the right time? Even if it is humanitarian aid, should the government offer it eleven days after the North’s sixth nuclear test and two days after the UN Security Council passed its toughest-ever sanctions on the regime in Pyongyang? We urge the government to make more prudent choices.

First of all, public sentiment will not approve of it. Since the North’s sixth nuclear test, allegedly of a hydrogen bomb, South Koreans are increasingly calling for redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to counter the North’s nuclear threat. Pyongyang even ridiculed Seoul as a U.S. dog. The government’s aid also could trigger public disdain for what will appear like begging for dialogue with Pyongyang.

The Moon Jae-in administration’s decision could cause deep schisms in the international community’s joint front against the North. Following the decisions by Mexico and Peru to expel their North Korean ambassadors, China has for the first time used the word “denunciation” about its ally. U.S. President Donald Trump’s choice of words — the sanctions are “just another very small step” — suggest more pressures down the road.

Aid to North Korea under such circumstances could cause serious confusion around the world. Seoul said it notified Washington of the plan. But it cannot avoid controversy, as already seen in remarks by Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. He said, quite reasonably, that such aid will harm the joint pressure on North Korea.

This all originates with the unification ministry’s obsession with dialogue. Despite the North’s repeated missile provocations, it proposed inter-Korean military talks, a reunion of separated families, and resumption of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The ministry might have taken a conciliatory path to help turn a tense situation around. But the government must not be hasty. Slow and steady wins the race.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 15, Page 34