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Moon’s many challenges

Nov 11,2017
President Moon Jae-in will hold a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping today in Da Nang, Vietnam on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting. The two leaders are expected to benefit from the ease in tensions following Seoul’s decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) missile shield. But Moon faces a tough challenge of addressing the North Korean nuclear threat. The North’s relentless development of nuclear weapons is inarguably the most pressing issue on the Korean Peninsula. The North is said to be engaged in making nuclear warheads that can fit atop ballistic missiles as early as year’s end.

Pyongyang’s nuclear gamble poses an immediate security threat to the world. It is only a matter of time until North Korea has deployed ICBMs tipped with nuclear warheads capable of striking the U.S. mainland. In that case, not only Northeast Asia but the entire world is under their direct threat. That poses a serious challenge to Beijing, too.

China holds the key to forcing the recalcitrant state to become a member of the international community after giving up on its cherished nuclear ambition. We pin our hopes on the Moon-Xi summit because U.S. President Donald Trump and Xi failed to offer a clear solution to the ever-deepening threat in their earlier summit in Beijing. Despite Trump’s move to put pressure on North Korea, it remains to be seen if Pyongyang will really return to any negotiating table. In order for North Korea to take a path toward dialogue after stopping its production of nuclear weapons, China must sincerely participate in international sanctions and strongly persuade it to come to the bargaining table.

Moon must convince Xi of the need for Beijing to fully join UN sanctions on North Korea. Otherwise, the possibility of resolving the crisis peacefully will be slim. Moon must persuade Xi more aggressively than simply as a champion of peace.

At the same time, he must take a strategic approach to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Fortunately, Moon declared in Indonesia that South Korea will expand its trade with Asean to $200 billion by 2021, nearly on a par with South Korea’s $210 billion annual trade with China. That will surely help diminish the China risk.

China and Japan have been making efforts to invest in Asean for a long time to take advantage of its strategic values and valuable markets. We did not. Moon must employ a strategic approach to Asean instead of sticking to sales diplomacy as his predecessors did.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 11, Page 30