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Moon’s moment in New York

Sept 21,2017
In his first address to a United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump made frightening remarks about North Korea. He vowed to “totally destroy” the country if America is forced to defend itself or its allies against the renegade nation’s nuclear weapons. His tough rhetoric on North Korea wasn’t a surprise. In August, Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury” on the rogue state.

But tension is heightened by the dramatic escalation of U.S. rhetoric. Top security officials from the Trump administration and Trump himself have “spontaneously” used tough words in reaction to the media’s questions or on Twitter. But Trump’s speech at the UN was different as it was not off the cuff. It was worked on at the White House, presumably by many people. In a nutshell, the speech represents the perspective of Trump and his security team.

The content of his speech also marked a drastic departure from the past. If Trump’s “fire and fury” remark was aimed at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the “total destruction” he promises involves 25 million North Koreans. We are astonished at the stunning extension of his targets.

The foreign media’s reactions to Trump’s bombshell remarks were mixed. Some said he went too far and others said he was addressing hawks at home. Security experts gently advised South Koreans not to take them at face value.

But no one can rule out the possibility of the United States heading into a full-fledged war with North Korea to wipe it out, as Trump vowed. That’s why we cannot simply look on as if we are spectators.

Our people’s anxiety has been deepening. Seoul must find out what Trump’s remarks really mean. That’s the only way for us to prepare for a worst-case scenario. If necessary, our government must explain the background of Trump’s address and how to deal with it.

In such a potentially volatile situation, President Moon Jae-in asked UN Secretary General António Guterres to help arrange a meeting with Kim Jong-un to resolve the North Korean nuclear threat. Did Moon really do the right thing when many countries are severing their diplomatic ties with Pyongyang? Moon’s plea for dialogue can serve as a critical impediment to the decades-old alliance between Seoul and Washington. Moon must clear growing public concerns in his address at the UN tonight.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 21, Page 34