July 31, 2017 12:48
President Moon Jae-in is showing signs of shifting his dovish position on North Korea and the deployment of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery here after North Korea's latest missile test.
Moon was briefed about the North's latest intercontinental missile launch at 11:50 p.m. on Friday night, just minutes after the provocation, and called a meeting of the National Security Council at 1 a.m. Saturday.
"The latest missile launch could lead to fundamental changes in the Northeast Asian security structure," Moon said. He called on officials to consider "our own sanctions against North Korea."
South Korean and U.S. forces conducted joint exercises aimed at intercepting North Korea's missiles on Sunday. Seoul also proposed to revise limits imposed by the U.S. on the range and payload of South Korea's own missiles. The government wants raise the maximum payload from the current 500 kg to 1 ton.
Cheong Wa Dae also said it will temporarily permit the deployment of four more THAAD missile launchers from the U.S. After the first two launchers were deployed in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province earlier this year, the new Moon administration postponed the deployment of the other four pending a procedural review.
But now Cheong Wa Dae says the environmental study, which had been omitted in the last administration's rush to push the deployment through before it was out of office, can proceed while the launchers are deployed. If there are problems they can always be removed again.
A Cheong Wa Dae official said, "There is clearly no chance of North Korea halting its provocations, so the deployment of the additional THAAD batteries is effectively a foregone conclusion, regardless of the environmental study."
Another high-ranking Cheong Wa Dae official said, "North Korea has approached the red line. This is the time to apply maximum pressure on North Korea, but that does not mean the doors of communication are completely shut."
However, most Cheong Wa Dae insiders admit that there is no realistic point in pushing for talks with the North under present conditions.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com