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Getting on board

May 04,2018
Heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula over North Korea’s nuclear provocations is being rapidly eased after the third inter-Korean summit in Panmunjom a week ago. If the upcoming U.S.-North summit is held smoothly — or at least ends without a major hitch — the nuclear problem could finally be solved.

Such optimism basically stems from the volte-face of North Korea after its leader Kim Jong-un’s meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. For instance, the North’s state mouthpieces ran the full text of the Panmunjom Declaration signed by both leaders on April 27, a sharp departure from the past. North Korean troops also took the step of removing their propaganda speakers along the border after their southern counterparts did the same to help ease military tension, as agreed in the inter-Korean summit. That’s not all. Pyongyang is reportedly preparing to release three Korean-Americans detained in a labor camp.

The reactions of the United States, China, Japan and Russia after the Moon-Kim summit are also promising. Washington, above all, shows strong confidence in the denuclearization of North Korea. Expressing hopes for an unprecedented opportunity to change the history of the peninsula, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “We are committed to the permanent, verifiable, irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction program.” In a surprising move, he replaced the term “complete,” which has been used by Washington and other countries in the past, with “permanent,” although the significance is not yet clear.

China and Japan are also trying to protect their national interests. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Pyongyang Wednesday. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared an effort to normalize Tokyo’s relations with Pyongyang by putting their unfortunate past behind, recalling the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration signed by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Russia’s Vladimir Putin underscored the importance of tripartite cooperation with both Koreas.

South and North Korea and four major countries are supporting a peaceful resolution of the nuclear problem for the first time since the North’s first nuke test in 2006. Both Washington and Pyongyang seem to want to solve the problem in one stroke.

Nevertheless, the government must not hurry. The Ministry of National Defense reported that Moon is considering shortening our mandatory service term to 18 months from 21 months. Haste is never wise.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 4, Page 30