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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Feb. 10)

2018/02/10 09:26

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Harsh reality

: Pyongyang showcases ICBMs on eve of Olympics

North Korea held a massive military parade Thursday on the eve of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of its armed forces.

Previously, Pyongyang invited foreign press to the event. But this year, no foreign media were invited and the event was not broadcast live. The North Korean regime was criticized for hampering the mood for the "Peace Olympics" by holding the event just before the Games opened in PyeongChang.

Although the event was more subdued that previous occasions, North Korea showed off its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) during the annual show of force. Pyongyang unveiled the Hwasong-15, the most upgraded ICBM believed to be capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a firm message to the U.S., saying the parade will show the world North Korea is a "world-class military power." He criticized the hostile policy of the U.S. toward his country and reiterated he will not allow "invaders to infringe on our sovereignty, not even by 0.001 millimeters."

   The parade is in contrast to the recent series of reconciliatory gestures from North Korea. North Korea has sent athletes and a huge delegation of performers and cheerleaders after an inter-Korean agreement last month on North Korea's participation in PyeongChang.

On the same day of the military parade, an arts troupe from North Korea led by Hyon Song-wol held a concert in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. The Samjiyon Orchestra performed a 90-minute program that included some popular songs from South Korea, such as Lee Sun-hee's "Dear J." The Samjiyon Orchestra will give a second concert Sunday in Seoul.

On Friday, the North Korean leader's sister Kim Yo-jong arrived at Incheon International Airport and took a train to PyeongChang for the opening ceremony. Her visit with other key members of the North Korean regime, including its ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam, is seen as a sign the North is open to a sincere discussion about improving inter-Korean relations.

President Moon Jae-in's focus on "Peace Olympics" should be given credit for thawing inter-Korean ties and resuming cultural and sports exchanges with North Korea. But a temporary improvement in inter-Korean relations does not mean the grave security situation on the Korean Peninsula will be resolved any time soon.

The most urgent issue is to bring the North to the table to discuss denuclearization. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Korea Thursday. The U.S. and North Korea should make best of the momentum for dialogue created by South Korea's "Peace Olympics" endeavor.

sshim@yna.co.kr

(END)

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