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Head in the sand

Feb 20,2018
Despite a direct nuclear threat from North Korea, our government did not participate in the Munich Security Conference 2018, which took place in Germany from Feb. 16 to 18. The conference — the world’s largest annual security forum — focused on building an international consensus on the North Korean nuclear issue this year. Due to the gravity of the meeting amid deepening concerns about the nuclear problem, high-level officials, including U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, attended it.

However, even after receiving an invitation, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha did not join the event, citing a need for diplomacy with international guests at the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Last year, then Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se explained our position on the nuclear issue in his key note speech.

Before the conference convened, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg underscored the need to put maximum pressure on North Korea to force it to scrap its nuclear missile program as NATO member nations are also within the range of its missiles. Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, said, “I think the global security situation is more unstable today than it has been at any time since the demise of the Soviet Union.” Japan’s Foreign Minister Kono went so far as to warn of the likelihood of the decades-old nuclear non-proliferation regime collapsing due to North Korea’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons. If nuclear armaments spread to South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Iran, it will shatter the international order, he warned.

The United States is reacting to the nuclear threat more sensitively than ever. Thomas Wright, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, quoted a U.S. Senator’s remarks that if Donald Trump chooses to take a military option against North Korea, it will take the form of a short yet massive operation instead of a so-called “bloody nose” strike. The mood in the United States is becoming more serious, as seen by the Pentagon considering a reinforcement plan for Marine forces in the Pacific.

Despite such saber-rattling, our foreign ministry is burying its head in the sand. If Kang is busy, it should have sent a deputy minister. Anything else is an attempt to avoid coping with the threat. That’s why the government shied away from the issue of denuclearization when Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, recently came to South Korea. Our government must focus on denuclearization along with the international community.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 20, Page 30