February 07, 2018 13:56
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence plans to visit a memorial honoring South Korean sailors who were killed by a North Korean torpedo attack in 2010 when he comes here for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. He will also meet with four or five North Korean defectors and be accompanied by the father of Otto Warmbier, the American university student who died after being jailed in North Korea.
Pence arrives in South Korea on Thursday after visiting a missile defense base in Alaska and American military bases in Japan. The message of his itinerary could not be clearer. It is a warning to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that he will not fool anyone by using the Winter Olympics to portray a warm and fuzzy image of his tyrannical regime. The White House told reporters that Pence is extremely concerned about Kim "hijacking" the peaceful message of the Olympics and rightly described his regime as "murderous."
But the South Korean government is heading in the exact opposite direction. It did not say a word when North Korea unilaterally decided to send its Samjiyon Orchestra by ship instead of via the land route as agreed, even though it must realize that North Korea was testing the waters to see how far Seoul is willing to bend its own sanctions. It also sent a chartered airplane to North Korea's Masikryong Ski Resort, undermining U.S. sanctions, and is now defending the timing of a massive military parade North Korea holds on the eve of the opening ceremony of the Olympics.
Yet once the Olympics are over, nothing will have changed. South Korea will once again face the North's weapons of mass destruction. It would of course be wonderful if the Moon Jae-in administration's efforts lead to denuclearization talks, but Kim Jong-un is not sending his people to Pyeongchang to talk about disarmament. He is sending them to weaken sanctions and spread propaganda. Strong sanctions and pressure must continue to force the regime to abandon its nuclear weapons. But Democratic Party bigwigs instead criticized Pence for "pouring cold water" on South Korea's peace efforts. If Seoul and Washington continue to walk in different directions, sanctions against the North will prove futile. Everyone knows what will happen next.
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