President-elect Park Geun-hye, ruling Saenuri Party chief Hwang Woo-yea and Moon Hee-sang, the head of an emergency committee in the main opposition Democratic United Party, met Thursday to discuss ways to deal with the North Korean nuclear crisis.
The three issued a statement after the meeting expressing "grave concern" over North Korea's imminent nuclear test and urged the North to abandon the plan immediately.
The three also said they cannot accept a nuclear-armed North Korea under any circumstances and advised Pyongyang that peace is possible only if the North abides by the promise to denuclearize that the regime made to the international community.
This is the first time in the 20 years since the North Korean nuclear crisis surfaced in 1993 that the president or president-elect and ruling and opposition party leaders met to deal with the crisis. When North Korea conducted its first nuclear test on Oct. 9, 2006, President Roh Moo-hyun brushed off the provocation saying it was "not an immediate threat." The then-opposition Grand National Party, by contrast said the Korean Peninsula was practically in a state of war.
The ruling and opposition camps have always been divided in their assessment of the North's nuclear threat and were busy bickering while the country suffered a growing threat. The GNP demanded an apology from Roh, saying his comments had ended up worsening the situation, while the then-Uri Party criticized the GNP for being warmongers.
But the situation now is completely different. The North succeeded in launching a space rocket that uses similar technology to an intercontinental ballistic missile and may be about to test a nuclear bomb small enough to be mounted on it. The day is approaching when North Korea can deploy a nuclear-armed ICBM. Seoul can no longer assume that the North does not have the economic means to wage war on the South or that the South’s high-tech weapons are more than capable of defeating North Korea's outdated weaponry.
If the North Korean nuclear threat becomes real, Seoul will have no choice but to completely overhaul its security strategy, which is now formed around conventional weapons. The country needs to take another look at how effective the Seoul-Washington alliance is in thwarting a nuclear-armed North Korea and redraw its defense strategy to protect itself from the North's nuclear weapons.
When North Korea conducts its next nuclear test, the clock will start to tick. This is no time for partisan bickering. If South Korea is to convince the U.S. and China to try their best to prevent it, then it must show the world a united front. It is encouraging to see the ruling and opposition parties joining hands to protect their country. Perhaps that will persuade the public to view politicians in a different light.