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In the clouds

Oct 18,2017
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said diplomatic efforts to resolve the North Korean crisis “will continue until the first bomb drops.”

He may have meant to emphasize diplomatic means, but has nevertheless caused jitters by mouthing the possibility of a “first bomb.” U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said President Donald Trump’s warning to discontinue a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, unless reforms are made, sends “the perfect message” to North Korea.

Washington was making it clear that it would not stop trying to freeze the North Korean nuclear program through dialogue.

Yet South Korean President Moon Jae-in remains out of touch with policymakers in the Trump administration and reportedly seeks advice mostly from dovish figures in Congress and Washington.

He has met U.S. foreign and security figures 12 times since he took office in May. Matthew Pottinger, senior director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, and Richard Haass, president of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, are the only figures he has met who are active on the Trump administration.

The others are mostly U.S. legislators or scholars who do not have direct influence on U.S. foreign policies.

Moon keeps up rapport mostly with the people in agreement with his dovish policy towards Pyongyang. On Monday, he met with Robert Gallucci, the state department’s point man on North Korea during the first nuclear crisis in 1993, who drew up the Geneva agreement.

Seoul will lose its balance and sense of reality if it pays heed only to dovish figures, while hawkish voices are getting louder in Washington.

Trump is coming to Seoul in early November. He has been complaining of Seoul’s insistence on pursuing dialogue. Seoul should be open to hearing out military options so as to work more closely with Washington toward actually realizing better solutions.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 17, Page 34