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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Times on June 7)

All News 07:29 June 07, 2016

Cuban lesson for NK
Time to wake up from fantasy of living by extortion

First, it was Iran and then Uganda. Now, Cuba, North Korea's "brother nation" is leaning toward to South Korea. Pyongyang and its young dictator Kim Jong-un should wake up from the fantasy of living in isolation and thriving by threatening neighbors with nuclear weapons and missiles.

There can be no denying that now is time of increasing the national interest through cooperation ― the era of ideological confrontation has ended.

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se made a two-day visit Saturday to Cuba at the invitation of President Raul Castro to participate in the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) summit. This was the first visit by a foreign minister since the two countries' diplomatic ties were severed after Fidel Castro took power during the 1953-1959 Cuban Revolution.

Ever since, Cuba has been one of the staunchest allies for Pyongyang. Havana didn't even send a team to the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the first Olympics to be participated in by both the free world and the communist bloc after an exchange of boycotts in Moscow and Los Angeles. Seoul made one of numerous serious efforts to normalize relations in 1997 without success. The latest try was announced last February when Minister Yun broached the idea of giving it another go.

Yun's efforts coincided with U.S. President Barack Obama's historic visit to Havana last year. It came to pass by the meeting of mutual conditions: Cuba wants to get out of its decades-long slumber that froze it in the 1950s and the U.S. no longer wants Cuba to remain a thorn in its side.

If Seoul-Havana ties are restored, the number of the countries that have ties with the North to the exclusion of the South would drop to three ― Syria, Macedonia and Kosovo.

Obviously the North has been alerted by Seoul's expansionist diplomacy for fear of deeper isolation and the further perdition of pariah status. It reacted strongly by trying to downplay the South's tangible diplomatic results, while sending high-profile delegations to reinforce ties with its friends.

That's the wrong approach.

First of all, Yun's Havana visit by itself conveyed a strong message of condemnation against the North's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, which are under the strongest-ever sanctions by the United Nations.

The Yun visit should be seen in the context of what has happened lately.

Uganda, a long recipient of the North's aid in Africa, has just switched sides to the South, supporting the global effort to separate the North from its WMDs and severing military and security cooperation.

Before that, Iran, the North's partner in the nuclear and missile development, chided the North for its nuclear tests. President Park Geun-hye recently visited Tehran in the first-ever visit by a Korean head of state and signed billions of dollars worth of deals to help Iran revitalize its economy after a decades-long embargo. The embargo started in a standoff with the U.S. after Iran's religious revolution and then continued due to its nuclear program, which is now mothballed.

To top it off, China, Korea's biggest trading partner and the world's superpower, has been drastically moderating its relations with the North in what was once called the blood-sealed alliance. Nowadays China deals with the North as if it were a strategic asset bordering on being a nuisance rather than an ally.

The North should realize that its model of business based on extortion is not working, cease nuclear and missile threats, and take the WMDs-for-survival deal from the global community. Time is not on its side.

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