June 22, 2017 12:59
With just one week left before his U.S. summit, President Moon Jae-in has been giving back-to-back interviews to American media about his views on North Korea. His approach is to start dialogue with the North on condition that Pyongyang freezes its nuclear and missile development programs. The ultimate aim is for North Korea to give up its nuclear arms programs altogether.
Moon said he intends to discuss this plan with U.S. President Donald Trump and stressed several times that the American president shares his thoughts. The two sides have been fine-tuning their official positions, and any discord will probably be packaged diplomatically.
On Tuesday, a White House spokesman flagged more sanctions against North Korea following the death of Otto Warmbier, the college student who died shortly after being evacuated in coma after 17 months of detention in North Korea. The spokesman said any chance of talks between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have clearly become more distant.
U.S. lawmakers are calling for retaliation. Trump made his first negative comment on Beijing's efforts to pressure North Korea since he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in early April, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been saying that Washington may take unilateral steps if this situation continues.
In these circumstances, promising to resolve the standoff through dialogue may sound correct theoretically but is quite unrealistic. In an interview with CBS, Moon said, "So there is a possibility that Kim Jong-un continues to make the bluff with his nuclear weapons programs. But deep inside he is actually yearning or wanting dialogue."
There have been people who thought it was an exaggeration to think that North Korea is really developing nuclear bombs. They believed that North Korea lacked the wherewithal and was only bluffing. That led them to believe it will give up its nuclear weapons if presented with a big enough carrot. But now the only people who think that are a small handful of incorrigible optimists.
Everyone else knows that the North Korean regime is deadly serious, because it feels nuclear weapons and long-range missiles are the only things that can protect it. North Korea's former deputy ambassador to the U.K., Thae Yong-ho, stated flatly after he defected to South Korea that Kim Jong-un will never give up nuclear weapons.
If Moon really thinks North Korea is "bluffing," he needs to think again. The U.S. government and lawmakers have named North Korea as the most urgent and dangerous threat to the U.S. It may well succeed in developing an intercontinental ballistic missile during Moon's term in office.
Looking at the North at this point in time through rose-tinted spectacles could prove the costliest mistake any South Korean president has yet made.
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