Trump and Moon Jae-in Stand at the Crossroads, Neither can Step Back

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Friday, December 8th, 2017
Jung Yeon-tae

Jung Yeon-tae, Chairman, Innovation Forum for Nation

Owing to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's reckless provocations, U.S. President Donald Trump and Korean President Moon Jae-in are standing at the crossroads and neither can take a step back.

Despite economic pressures imposed by the U.N. – including the U.S. and China – and its diplomatic isolation, Kim Jong-un remains unbending in his aim for nuclear miniaturization and the development and deployment of ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missile) for actual battle. Some experts anticipate that North Korea will complete its nuclear arsenal before January 2018.

President Trump is faced with a dangerous situation in which he can no longer ignore North Korea's nuclear and missile threats. As soon as the world acknowledges North Korea’s completion of its nuclear and missile capabilities, South Korea, Japan, and even Taiwan could be forced to embark on their own paths to nuclear armaments, and the domino effect on nuclear proliferation would begin its course.

This, of course, would be a consequential threat not only to China but to Russia and the U.S.

Having said this, even if North Korea is able to complete and deploy its nuclear and missile arsenal for actual battle, it is unlikely that they will be able to directly attack the U.S., notably because that would be a self-destructive move for the North Korean leader. From this perspective, it would seem that North Korea’s nuclear and missiles arsenal is a means for the rogue nation to blackmail the world into maintaining the status quo of its regime, and perhaps, to reunify the country on its own terms. If America recognizes North Korea as a nuclearized state, in the long run, there is the possibility that the entire Korean peninsula could face the possibility of a Socialist government. If in the future Seoul decides to embrace Socialist ideals, one needs to consider the fact that the United States would abandon the peninsula.

The U.S. president needs to take decisive action on this issue, as there is the possibility that the North's manufacturing technology of small-sized atomic and hydrogen bombs may fall into the hands of global terrorist groups such as Iran and IS.

Even recently, people in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S. have been horrified by suicide bombings by terrorists armed with bombs. In case of a suicide bombing by a terrorist shouldering a knapsack with small-sized atomic bomb or driving a compact car with the weapon, in a worst-case scenario, an entire city could be destroyed. If such suicide bombings take place with atomic bombs in metropolitan areas of the world, there will be mass destruction; the danger that these weapons could fall into the hands of such terrorists is real and terrifying. Just this reason alone should bring the nations of the world together to prevent such a thing from happening.

North Korea's nuclear and conventional missiles should be dealt with, and the world is looking to US President Trump for leadership. There are some in the American government who support the idea of a preemptive strike on
North Korea. For them, the reasons are clear and solid.

In the meantime, President Moon has maintained his position of no war on the Korean peninsula. This assertion should also be demanded of Kim Jong-un. Can we as a nation and ally demand it of the U.S.?

There is a reason behind Moon's stance. He came to power with the so-called "candlelight revolution," and he has always maintained his openness to talk to North Korea. And although some people may suggest that Moon has leftist tendencies under the belief of high approval ratings, I don’t think that the majority of Korean people favor a path towards Communism. Koreans are one of the most educated and sophisticated people on earth. I don’t think it will be easy to convince them of abandoning the capitalist ways and turning to Socialism.

President Moon came to power on the heels of a “candlelight revolution” brought on by countless Koreans who demanded a more just society. If President Moon fails to achieve a more just society, he could be faced with a "candlelight revolt." His burden is heavy, I’m sure, as his legacy depends on whether he can talk to Kim Jung-un and improve relations.

Moon cannot give up halfway, as he can survive only when he succeeds in bringing about the changes he has promised. To do so, North Korea's Kim Jong-un and his regime need to cooperate. But, so far, they have not. Accordingly, President Moon, along with Kim Jong-un, is now facing his destiny by taking gambles with President Trump.

Will Trump save the world by getting rid of Kim Jong-un? Or will Moon Jae-in defend Kim Jong-un?

In this sense, I think the U.S. and South Korea are allies on the surface, but Trump and Moon Jae-in have been placed in a situation where they cannot completely see eye to eye.

If Trump takes military action such as a preemptive strike, Kim Jong-un would probably not survive for long. However, we don’t know what history would say about this.

President Trump needs to be decisive, or the Korean peninsula may head in a direction completely at odds with the hope of many Koreans (the people shouting for a free democratic state, the Republic of Korea).
It should not be overlooked that there is also the possibility of peaceful reunification with the DPRK after the successful transition to a socialist state.

Which choice is right will be judged and recorded by history in the distant future, but in the process the blood of many people will flow.

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