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[Editorial] Obsession with NK

Pyongyang said to have offered absurd preconditions for talks

North Korea is said to have demanded, as preconditions for talks on declaring the end of the Korean War, that South Korea and the United States stop their combined military exercises and that economic sanctions against Pyongyang be lifted.

A lawmaker who attended a parliamentary audit of the National Intelligence Service on Thursday told reporters later that the agency’s chief had made the revelation.

South Korea and the US have already reduced their combined drills, both to ease inter-Korean tensions and due to the coronavirus pandemic, to the extent that there is great concern about preparedness.

Above all, there is no chance of Pyongyang giving up on its nuclear weapons. It has tested an array of missiles while reportedly reactivating its nuclear facilities.

Suspension of the South Korea-US combined exercises will not only imperil the South’s security but also weaken the alliance.

The lifting of economic sanctions is also an unacceptable demand.

The Moon regime argues that an end-of-war declaration would open the way for denuclearization. But with the war over, North Korea would likely demand the dissolution of the United Nations Command and the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea. A formal end to the war would only obscure the mandate of the UN Command -- created under US leadership after the Korean War broke out -- and ultimately of the US forces stationed in South Korea.

Without a doubt, these are demands that would jeopardize the nation’s security, and yet the Moon administration is pushing almost blindly for an end-of-war declaration -- or even for inter-Korean dialogue to that end. The North, which had been unresponsive to the South’s proposals at first, seems to be seeking to take advantage of Moon’s obsession. It has offered preconditions just for discussion of the issue, not for an end-of-war declaration itself.

Washington recently put the brakes on Seoul’s impatience.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the US and South Korea may have somewhat different perspectives on the precise sequence or timing or conditions for different steps.

The government in Seoul argues that an end-of-war declaration is only a political and symbolic step that could be reversed if need be. Yet it is questionable if it could be snapped back easily.

Despite Pyongyang offering absurd preconditions and Washington being negative, Moon won’t let go.

He has concentrated the nation’s diplomatic energy on an end-of-war declaration ever since he raised the issue in his address at the UN General Assembly in September.

Suh Hoon, director of Cheong Wa Dae’s National Security Office, and Noh Kyu-duk, head of Korean Peninsula peace negotiations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visited Washington for consultations about an end-of-war declaration. Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong asked his Russian counterpart to cooperate on the matter.

When Moon asked for support from France while arguing for lighter UN sanctions on North Korea as an incentive for denuclearization at his summit with French President Emmanuel Macron in 2018, Macron said the sanctions would be necessary until the North was willing to cooperate on denuclearization. Moon was effectively snubbed over his unrealistic view of North Korea. Now he argues that an end-of-war declaration would facilitate talks on denuclearization.

The most important premise for an end-of-war declaration is solid trust in North Korea’s promise not to threaten South Korea. At the center of that promise lies denuclearization.

Despite the absence of any such trust, the administration is pushing for an end-of-war declaration and even calling for lighter sanctions on the North as an incentive for talks.

An end-of-war declaration without denuclearization is a sandcastle.

Above all, it is not right for a president in the closing days of his presidency to set new inter-Korean security relations that could have grave consequences.

The president’s focus during the remaining six months of his term should not be an end-of-war declaration, but keeping the situation on the Korean Peninsula under control.

By Korea Herald (khnews@heraldcorp.com)
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