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Editorial: Can an environment for meaningful North Korean dialogue be created?

  • February 15, 2018
  • , The Japan News , 8:30 p.m.
  • English Press

The Yomiuri Shimbun


As long as North Korea has no intention of abandoning its nuclear and missile development programs, any dialogue to be conducted with North Korea will only be used by that country to buy time to boost its military capability. The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump needs to discern the state of affairs carefully.


Speaking to a U.S. newspaper, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence emphasized that the United States would “continue the maximum pressure” against Pyongyang but also said, “But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.” Without specifying any preconditions, he expressed a positive attitude toward direct talks with North Korea.


During Pence’s meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae In, held on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, both were said to have agreed on the basic course of action that South Korea would first hold a dialogue with North Korea and then the United States would follow suit.


Since the Agreed Framework between the United States and North Korea in 1994, dialogues and agreements with North Korea have ended up only giving Pyongyang such benefits as economic assistance and didn’t lead to solving the issue. Based on recognition of this fact, the Trump administration has taken the fundamental position of seeing Pyongyang’s policy change as a condition for holding a dialogue with North Korea.


Pence said that Moon assured him that South Korea will tell North Korea that it can get benefits only for taking concrete steps toward denuclearization. Pence emphasized, “I think it is different from the last 20 years.”


Starting a dialogue without any careful consideration seems to send the wrong message to North Korea.


Trump’s stance unclear


Also worrying is that Trump’s standpoint toward North Korea does not seem to be fixed yet.


As seen from harsh remarks such as that it is “a waste of time trying to negotiate with North Korea,” to such a flexible stance as expressing his willingness to hold talks with North Korea “at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances,” the wavering in his stance is conspicuous.


North Korea has been taking advantage of the Olympics to deploy its “smile diplomacy,” but this does not mean its threats have been mitigated. With the U.S. government planning to impose additional sanctions on North Korea, there are fears that Pyongyang would be offended by such moves and would resume its nuclear tests or its ballistic missile launches.


Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, expressed his “satisfaction” over the results of the visit to South Korea by his younger sister Kim Yo Jong and gave instructions to improve North-South relations further. Kim will, without doubt, intensify his offensive toward the realization of Moon’s visit to North Korea at an early time and of summit talks between the leaders of South Korea and North Korea.


Regarding U.S.-South Korean joint military drills, Kim is likely to call on South Korea to suspend them.


Worrisome is that Moon is urging both the United States and North Korea to hold a dialogue for the development of North-South relations, without pressing Pyongyang to give up its nuclear and missile development programs.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the House of Representatives’ Budget Committee session, emphasized that he confirmed with the U.S. side that both Japan and the United States would continuously raise pressure to the maximum on Pyongyang toward its denuclearization. He also pointed out that circumstances must be created in which the North Korean side would come out seeking dialogue.


It is important for Japan, the United States and South Korea to continue to share policies and maintain their cooperation.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 15, 2018)

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