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Time to be sincere

May 21,2018
President Moon Jae-in will have his third summit with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House. The meeting on Tuesday carries great significance after North Korea raised the possibility of boycotting the Jun. 12 summit between Kim Jong-un and Trump in Singapore. The two allies’ urgent 20-minute telephone conversation on Sunday reaffirmed their hopes for a successful Trump-Kim summit next month.

Trump has been floating the so-called Libyan model — denuclearization first and compensation later — with regards to the issue. After Pyongyang opposed it, Trump stepped back and mentioned a “Korean model,” in which North Korea will be “tremendously industrious” and receive “very adequate protection” if Kim agrees to denuclearization. Trump also threatened that if Pyongyang refuses denuclearization, the Libyan model could be revived. “In Libya, we decimated that country,” he warned.

Trump’s denuclearization solution is not that different from ours. But we cannot rule out the possibility of the U.S. president claiming a “successful summit” after striking a deal with Kim to suspend ICBM launches while leaving intact the threats from North Korea’s short- and intermediate-range missiles aimed at South Korea. That would be the worse-case scenario for South Korea.

President Moon was able to persuade Kim to agree to “complete denuclearization” in his Apr. 27 summit. Based on the achievements, Moon must draw up a joint strategy for a successful summit between Trump and Kim. What counts most here is principles. Both leaders must not lower hurdles for North Korea. Based on their firm principle of complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement, they must demand the North scrap all of its nuclear materials and facilities and convince Pyongyang that if it complies, its security will be ensured along with generous economic aid.

Kim must face reality. He already agreed to “complete denuclearization” with Moon. It is not the time for Pyongyang to backpedal on its earlier vows after finding fault with details of the negotiation. A historic opportunity for talks with Uncle Sam will only vanish if it continues to criticize the annual South Korea-U.S. joint drills, call for North Korean defectors who worked at a restaurant in China to be repatriated and threaten to cancel the Trump-Kim summit.

All the answers lie in denuclearization. Only if Kim shows sincerity can North Korea enjoy prosperity.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 21, Page 26