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N. Korea needs to abandon missiles before relations can improve

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By Associated Press

Japan News published this editorial on why no improvement is possible in Korea relations without denuclearization.

It is obvious that Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, has intensified his dialogue offensive to win over South Korea.

Precautions need to be taken against a situation in which a rift would emerge in international efforts to contain North

Korea, while there is no progress being made on the North Korean nuclear issue.

In tandem with the opening of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, a high-level North Korean delegation visited South Korea and held talks with South Korean President Moon Jae In. Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of the North Korean leader, handed a personal letter from Kim Jong Un to Moon and asked Moon to visit North Korea at an early date. The letter was said to contain the leader’s willingness to improve South-North relations.

Kim Yo Jong, as a special envoy for Kim Jong Un, joined the delegation led by Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea. It is the first visit to South Korea by a direct descendant of the North’s three generations of supreme leaders, which began with Kim Il Sung.

Moon emphasized that the delegation’s visit to South Korea has become an opportunity for easing tension and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula and improving South-North relations.

Regarding summit talks between the two Koreas, Moon said, “Let us make it happen by creating the necessary conditions,” showing his positive stance.

Not to be overlooked is that Moon did not directly demand the North abandon its nuclear development programs. Moon only went so far as to say, “An early resumption of dialogue between the United States and the North is also needed for the development” of South-North relations.

Moon should hold fast

The North Korean nuclear issue is also directly linked to South Korea’s national security. Moon should recognize that he himself has to press North Korea to denuclearize, rather than relegating the issue to dialogue between the United States and North Korea.

Leaders of countries gathered at a reception dinner in Pyeongchang.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe demanded of Kim Yong Nam that North Korea resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea and abandon its nuclear and missile development programs.

Moon tried to engineer U.S.-North Korean contact at the dinner, but U.S. Vice President Mike Pence refused to agree. His refusal apparently indicated his intention of maintaining a hard-line stance toward North Korea, without being swayed by the reconciliatory mood between the two Koreas.

A difference in the degree of enthusiasm between Japan and the United States on one hand, and South Korea on the other is apparent. Taking aim at South Korea, which it considers the easiest target for undermining the solidarity among the three nations, North Korea is trying to sow discord among them. Moon may be playing right into the North’s hands.

Lying behind Pyongyang’s promotion of “smile diplomacy” is the economic sanctions on that country starting to prove effective. It should not be forgotten that the exertion of continuous pressure on Pyongyang will change its actions.

The future situation on the Korean Peninsula will be swayed by the handling of the joint U.S.-South Korean military drills, which has been postponed. The United States has made it clear that it will carry out the drills in April, after the Olympics and Paralympics. North Korea, which persistently seeks for the drills to be suspended, will undoubtedly put further pressure on South Korea.

The drills are aimed at deterring North Korea from making military provocations, and maintaining and reinforcing readiness to deal with contingencies. Moon should make efforts to hold fast to the U.S.-South Korean alliance.