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Editorial: South Korea should keep in step with U.S. for North’s denuclearization

The Yomiuri Shimbun


Efforts are urged to develop an environment that will facilitate dialogue between the United States and North Korea, while maintaining sanctions to pressure Pyongyang to move forward on its complete denuclearization. South Korea must be aware of the importance of such efforts and move in step with the United States.


U.S. President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in held a meeting where they exchanged views on their policies on North Korea.


The two leaders agreed to maintain a stance of continuing dialogue with Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, but Trump expressed wariness, saying, “If it goes fast, it’s not going to be the proper deal.” Trump stressed his position to see how North Korea will move without easing economic sanctions against the country.


The second U.S.-North Korea summit, which was held in Hanoi in February, ended without a deal due to lack of preparation. An attitude of avoiding hastiness for their third summit appears to be reasonable.


The problem is a rift between Washington and Seoul over their handling of North Korean issues has been highlighted once again.


Moon has sketched a vision of invigorating dialogue by accumulating “smaller deals,” which involve a combination of phased denuclearization and rewards such as sanctions relief.


Trump effectively brushed off the South Korean side’s vision, saying: “At this moment, we’re talking about the big deal. The big deal is we have to get rid of the nuclear weapons.”


Seek comprehensive ‘big deal’


In addition, regarding Moon’s eagerness to resume inter-Korean economic projects including the Kaesong industrial complex and tourism zone on Mt. Kumgang, Trump said bluntly, “This isn’t the right time.”


If North Korea dismantles all its nuclear weapons, nuclear substances and nuclear-related facilities, the international community will support Pyongyang’s economic revival in an integrated manner. Moon needs to understand the U.S. stance of aiming for this kind of a comprehensive agreement and “big deal.”


The role that Moon should play is not to speak for North Korea as an intermediary between Washington and Pyongyang. It is imperative that he not give North Korea any leeway for military provocation, while standing firm on the U.S.-South Korea alliance.


In an address delivered to a plenary session of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Kim said his country should “deal a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes miscalculating that sanctions can bring the DPRK [an abbreviation for North Korea’s official name] to its knees.” The remarks were apparently an implicit expression of his frustration with Washington’s stance of keeping the sanctions in place.


It can be speculated that Kim’s emphasis on the need for “self-reliance” in economic construction is aimed at restraint by calling on the people for austerity.


There has been no change to Kim’s tactic of trying to win the lifting of sanctions by taking advantage of his positive relationship with Trump and using denuclearization bit by bit as a bargaining chip. The United States, Japan and South Korea are urged to work together to pressure North Korea to make a shift.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 13, 2019)

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