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Premature talks of scaling down joint exercise should be stopped

Premature talks of scaling down joint exercise should be stopped

Posted November. 15, 2017 08:56,   

Updated November. 15, 2017 09:20


As of today, full two months have passed without any nuclear or missile provocations from North Korea. Joseph Y. Yun, the Special Representative for North Korea Policy at the U.S. State Department, who said that if North Korea halted nuclear and missile tests for about 60 days, it would be a sign that Washington needs to resume dialogue with Pyongyang, visited South Korea Tuesday to have a seemingly well-timed meeting with the South Korean government. Also, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Olympic Truce for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics Tuesday urging all countries to cease conflicts during the games. U.S. President Donald Trump also said he will make a “major announcement” Wednesday about North Korea.

Compared with two months ago, the recent moves of the United States suggest that political circumstances on the Korean Peninsula are now standing at a crossroads. Following Pyongyang’s 6th nuclear test and missile launch in September, there had been the exchange of intimidating threats and insults between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un including “the complete destruction of North Korea” or “super-hardline response.” Since then, however, North Korea has refrained from carrying out additional provocations, which some speculate is due to the armed protests of the United States. Yet, military tensions are still running high on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea’s soldiers on guard in the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the village of Panmunjom opened fire towards south Tuesday while targeting an escaping comrade while South Korea and the United States performed a large-scale combined training in the East Sea in which three U.S. aircraft carriers were employed.

For the moment, all eyes are on the “major announcement” President Trump will make Wednesday. Speculations are mixed with some expecting Washington to designate North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terrorism again in nine years under its stance of bringing “maximum pressure” and others predicting that the U.S. administration will steer towards dialogue and negotiation. Trump’s measured tone in addressing North Korea during his visit to Seoul and his mention of the possibility of becoming “friends” with Kim Jong Un indeed make the latter guess not entirely unimaginable. The U.S. Department of State has also repeatedly said that it is “open to dialogue with North Korea.”

Still, even if Washington and Pyongyang resume long-awaited dialogue, that would mark only the beginning of a long journey. It would be still too early to breathe a sigh of relief until North Korea announces that it will halt all provocations and promises not to reverse its decision. Some argue for the suspension or scaling down of the South Korea-U.S. Key Resolve military exercise during the Winter Olympics. However, while the schedule of the exercise can be subject to adjustment, we should not reward North Korea’s temporary pause in provocations with the scaling down or complete suspension of the annual military exercise.

In a country beset with frequent wars, the ancient Greeks held the Olympics to drop hostility and promote peace at least during the games. Now, nowhere in the world is such a spirit of peace more needed than the Korean Peninsula. The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics cannot become the “Peace Olympics” without current tense circumstances on the peninsula turning stable. North Korea has chosen to go with the flow when it joined the unanimous vote to adopt the Olympic Truce for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics at the United Nations. The North should now join the global festival for peace, abandoning its nuclear and missile ambitions, before it is too late.