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A chance for a stronger alliance

Sept 18,2017
President Moon Jae-in embarks on a trip to the United States today to make a keynote speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. But his trip this time carries greater significance than ever due to North Korea’s ever-growing nuclear threat and the sharp division of the international community over the issue.

After the North’s successful launch last week of a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile and its maneuver to deploy them for combat, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared that his country has almost reached the point of complete nuclear armament, underscoring a need to reinforce its newfound attack capabilities. Under such volatile circumstances, President Moon must consolidate South Korea’s alliance with the United States and augment cooperation with other countries to address the nuclear conundrum.

The Korean Peninsula is entering an extremely dangerous phase in the face of Pyongyang’s obsession with nuclear weapons. Quoting Kim’s words, the Korean Central New Agency, the state mouthpiece of North Korea, said it is time to put an end to the decades-old division with nuclear warheads. Responding, U.S. President Donald Trump warned at Andrews Air Force Base that judgement day arrives when North Koreans hear the roaring sounds of F-35 stealth fighters. In a press conference on the same day, U.S. National Security Advisor Herbert H.R. McMaster also did not rule out a military option.

Opposition lawmakers’ visit to Washington to call for a redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons is understood as a sign of determination to resolve our security crisis. Despite the State Department’s reassurance of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, the lawmakers hit the nail on the head given the sensitive reaction by Chinese Ambassador to Washington Cui Tiankai. He said China strongly opposes deployment of nuclear weapons in any part of the Korean Peninsula.

Cui made the remarks as he well knows that the redeployment of tactical nukes will surely serve as stronger pressure on Beijing to denuclearize North Korea. In that sense, President Moon’s opposition to the deployment in his interview with CNN before his trip to the United States is very regrettable. He could have used the card strategically apart from the redeployment of the nukes in South Korea.

The best way to cope with the North’s threat is an unflinching alliance with Washington. With the peninsula heading into a security crisis, South Korea and the United States must restore their alliance. Dialogue with the rogue state comes next.

President Moon’s visit must reflect such urgency. In a telephone conversation with Trump, Moon mentioned a need to strengthen a joint defense capability between the two allies to effectively counter the North’s provocations. We hope he eases growing public concerns about security in a summit with Trump once and for all.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 18, Page 34