What others say: South Korea, U.S. must maintain ties to counter nuclear threat

Diplomatic maneuvering has been intensifying between the United States, which is calling for denuclearization, and North Korea, which is trying to stall proceedings. To make progress on the nuclear issue, it is imperative for the international community, including China and South Korea, to maintain pressure by enforcing sanctions against Pyongyang.

U.S. President Donald Trump has directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to cancel his planned visit to North Korea. Trump also said, “At this time … I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

The bilateral negotiations have deadlocked because the North ramped up its tactic of giving priority to its calls for the lifting of sanctions and security guarantees for its regime while delaying denuclearization.

The International Atomic and Energy Agency has compiled a report, confirming that the North has been proceeding with nuclear development programs, including the continued operation of nuclear-related facilities in Yongbyon in North Korea’s northwestern region.

This is a move that runs counter to a commitment for the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” which was made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, during his June summit with Trump, and thus cannot be overlooked.

Pyongyang should proceed with formulating a road map for its abandonment of nuclear weapons while standing at the start line for denuclearization by reporting all its nuclear arms and development programs.

North Korea, which gives weight to obtaining U.S. guarantees of security for its regime, has been persistently calling for an early declaration of the end of the Korean War. The United States has already made a concession of canceling its joint military exercises with South Korea. Washington should not comply with the North’s demand for a declaration of the war’s end as long as it does not take any concrete action toward denuclearization. …

… A matter of concern is that South Korean President Moon Jae In leans toward promoting exchange and cooperation with the North.

It has been agreed by the two Koreas that Moon will visit Pyongyang in September to confer with Kim. Emphasizing that the development of the South-North relations is the only driving force for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Moon has disclosed his intention to hold within this year a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a railway and a highway linking the two Koreas.

The Moon administration is expediting efforts to open a South-North joint liaison office in Kaesong, North Korea. By establishing a close relationship between the two Koreas, Moon likely has the ulterior motive of bolstering the South’s position as a mediator between the United States and North Korea.

If cooperation with the North is pushed ahead with no progress seen in denuclearization, it may cause disarray in the U.S.-South Korea relationship. Moon should be aware that as things stand now, there is a limit to the progress that can be made in relations with the North.

Seoul has prosecuted South Korean firms for smuggling North Korean coal, an item banned by U.N. Security Council resolutions. The action came about when allegations of smuggling were highlighted by a Security Council expert panel on sanctions.

Amid increasing uncertainty over whether China, the major backer of the Kim regime, has been enforcing sanctions strictly, South Korea must not be allowed to participate in the widening of a hole in the network of U.N. sanctions against the North.

—The Japan News, Aug. 26, 2018

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