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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Times on Feb. 17)

2016/02/17 06:59

Compelling case

President vows to force changes on NK

President Park Geun-hye made a compelling case that it is time to stop pampering North Korea and force it to give up its weapons of mass destruction. At a time of national anxiety over Pyongyang's nuclear and long-range missile tests, her speech at the National Assembly, Tuesday, sounded as a fresh call for the employment of self-determination, peace and compassion in order to achieve the goal. Of course, this new mission of peace has risks as well.

When Park talked about the settlement of the North Korean threats "on our own," it was a statement of both frustration and confidence. In dealing with the North, the South has often found itself without a will and means to fight back the North's provocations. Now she was calling an end to such a period of helplessness.

Justifications are on the South's side. First, it has tried to encourage the North to change but was rejected. In the end, Pyongyang tested what it called an H-bomb in January and went on to fire a long-range missile in February, ignoring the calls from Seoul and the international community to stop its dangerous game.

The North has left no doubt that it is pressing ahead to become a nuclear weapons state. In her speech, Park compared the North to a runaway train that, unless halted, would wreak havoc on regional and global peace. Seoul is taking on the mission for peace, collaborating with the United States and Japan, while cajoling China, the North's benefactor, into joining for a tougher set of sanctions on the North.

There should be no mistake that Seoul means peace. Park didn't give any signs of yielding to rising calls for the nation to acquire nuclear weapons, stating that the goal was to have the North forsake its weapons of mass destruction.

She accented that, if a U.S.-made missile interceptor was brought in, it would be for defense against the threat of the North's missiles. China is strongly opposed to the deployment of the terminal high-altitude area defense system, or THAAD, but Park didn't yield to any distractions.

Regarding her sudden decision to close the Gaeseong Industrial Complex, the inter-Korean economic cooperation project, she said that it was inevitable because of the risk of the North holding tenant South Korean businessmen hostage as were seven workers during the 2013 closure.

Plus, the South's call for punitive sanctions on the North would be untenable, if it provided hundreds of millions of dollars through wages for North Korean workers to the North Korean leadership.

We agree with Park's assessment of the current situation and new forceful means on the North. As she stated, we have long ignored the inconvenient truth that the North's missiles target the South, trying to believe that the two Koreas are brothers. It is time to wake up to the reality. It is also true that we need to drop the habit of relying on others for our own safety and security.

Still as the people of the nation that suffered from a devastating war during the 1950-1953 Korean conflict, a repeat of such a tragedy can't be acceptable under any circumstances. So every effort should be made to remind us that the goal is not to destroy the North but make a lasting peace. That is the real challenge for Park's new North Korea policy.