It is common practice for North Korea to escalate military tensions to gain economic assistance and other concessions. South Korea should change its conciliatory policy toward the North and reaffirm the importance of its alliance with the United States.
North Korea has announced its military action plan, in which it threatened to resume exercises near the military demarcation line with the South. There have been military clashes between the two sides near the line in the Yellow Sea in the past. It is vital to remain vigilant toward any contingency.
Pyongyang also blew up its liaison office with Seoul in Kaesong, southwest North Korea, which was considered a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation with officials from the two countries stationed there.
When Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in 2018, they agreed on measures to ease tensions. The latest series of provocations from Pyongyang means that the results of this meeting have been voided.
North Korea is shifting to a hard-line stance apparently because it is facing domestic troubles.
There is no prospect that the economic sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the U.N. Security Council will be lifted anytime soon. Trade with China, which is a lifeline for the economy of North Korea, has significantly shrunk since the border was closed amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. It is obvious that North Korea is trying to pressure the South to extend economic assistance to its neighbor.
Pyongyang’s latest hostile policy toward Seoul has been led by Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of the North Korean leader. Has she practically taken up a No. 2 position in the country? Or are the siblings considering playing different roles? It is necessary to analyze the background to this situation.
It can be said that the Moon administration has been forced to pay the price of taking a conciliatory stance toward North Korea and not keeping step with the United States.
The measures to ease tensions and conduct economic cooperation that were agreed upon at the 2018 inter-Korean summit should have been implemented in parallel with how much progress has been made on the issue of the North’s nuclear and missile development.
As long as Pyongyang does not abandon its nuclear weapons program, it is only natural that the economic sanctions have not been lifted and inter-Korean cooperation projects — such as the Kaesong industrial complex and tourism for Mt. Kumgang, also in the North — have not been resumed.
The Moon administration must face the fact that inter-Korean talks will eventually come to a standstill if they do not pay enough attention to security.
Thursday will mark the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War in 1950, when the North launched full-scale invasions into the South. Even since the armistice agreement was signed in 1953, Pyongyang has repeatedly made military provocations.
The level of threat posed by Pyongyang has dramatically increased since 2006 due to its nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches. The country undoubtedly is continuing its strategy of weakening the U.S.-South Korean alliance and plotting to maintain its dictatorship and reunify the Korean Peninsula.
With no prospect in sight for a permanent end to the war and the crafting of a regime of peace, the recurrence of an all-out war has been prevented by the fact that U.S. forces based in South Korea and the U.S.-South Korea alliance have been effective. The United States and South Korea are urged to continue efforts to beef up their deterrence.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 20, 2020.