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Editorial: North Korea must deliver on its promise

It may be an attempt to advance the pending issue of North Korea’s denuclearization by prioritizing a rapprochement with the country. The U.S. and South Korea have agreed to suspend an annual joint military drill. Now it is the North’s turn to show its actions for a “complete denuclearization” as it promised.


The suspended drill is codenamed “Ulchi Freedom Guardian,” which is conducted every August.


It is a command post exercise (CPX) for U.S. and South Korean forces to check their readiness, based on computer-simulated scenarios, in anticipation of an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula.


It is a large-scale drill conducted usually with the participation of some 50,000 South Korean troops and about 20,000 from U.S. forces. Time and again North Korea had called for its suspension.


The drill’s cancellation was signaled in the joint statement compiled at the U.S.-North Korea summit.


The statement incorporated the principle of a “complete denuclearization” but failed to clearly show specific steps and timetables, drawing criticism that it is insufficient.


But the statement contained two noticeable clauses — “establishment of new U.S.-DPRK relations” and “promotion of denuclearization through mutual confidence building.”


These clauses are based on a new idea that is for the U.S. and North Korea to build a relationship of trust first in order to carry forward the denuclearization process in light of past failures to continue denuclearization negotiations amid mutual distrust.


Also, U.S. President Donald Trump said during a press conference after the U.S.-North Korea summit, “It’s inappropriate to conduct a (U.S.-South Korea) military exercise under the circumstance that the U.S. is currently negotiating (with North Korea). The suspension of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise means that the president wasted little time in carrying out the promise.


The suspension of the exercise has also drawn some criticism that the U.S. “gave too much concession to the North when the country has not taken any concrete actions yet.”


But this is not the first time that a U.S.-ROK joint military exercise has been called off to solve the North’s nuclear problem. The latest decision made by Washington and Seoul to suspend the drill is also understandable as a way to lay the groundwork for promoting talks.


Even so, we are concerned that North Korea’s moves are still invisible. At the summit, Workers’ Party of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un expressed his intention to “destroy a missile engine test site.” But it is yet to be confirmed whether the North Korean leader has done so.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to visit North Korea to flesh out the joint statement. Our hope is that Kim Jong Un will promptly present denuclearization steps and the deadline and put them into practice.


South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense says the joint training exercise will not be suspended completely. That means the joint drill can be resumed anytime if North Korea does not act sincerely.


In the meantime, on June 19, Kim Jong Un made his third visit to China, which shows understanding for the North. If Kim is trying to delay denuclearization efforts, he will come under international scrutiny and economic sanctions will be strengthened further. He should remember that.

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