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(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on Dec. 11)

All News 07:11 December 11, 2017

View NK realistically
South Korea must not neglect preparations for escalating crisis

The White House said Thursday that "no official decision has been made" about whether the US is to participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics set to take place in South Korea in February. A day earlier, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said in an interview with Fox News that "there's an open question" about whether the US team will compete at the Olympics.

The US administration said afterward that it "looks forward to participating" in the Winter Games. But it noted that the protection of Americans is "our top priority."

As the remarks caused a stir, the US Olympic Committee said Friday it would send a full team to compete at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province. The South Korean presidential office disclosed that US President Donald Trump had promised to send a high-level delegation to the Olympics.

South Korea could not have conceived of hearing those words from its ally, with less than two months left to the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

For now, there is a slim chance of the US boycotting the games, but the fact that it is undecided about its participation is unusual and shocking. US government officials seem to have thought of the worst-case scenario regarding North Korean nuclear threats during the Olympics. The peninsula appears in a grave situation indeed.

The US Central Intelligence Agency is said to have told Trump that there was a "three-month window" to act before North Korea gained the capability to attack US cities with intercontinental ballistic missiles. This warning implies the US should strike the North within the deadline, if it were ever to do so.

If the US expected nothing grave to happen in February or March next year in connection with the North’s nuclear and missile programs, it would have no reason to be undecided as to whether to participate in the Olympics from Feb. 9-25.

Although the current situation is regarded by the US as serious enough to put off making a decision on its participation in the Olympics, South Korea seems to be taking things easy.

The Moon administration is eagerly awaiting the North's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Its participation may be a signal of its intention to begin negotiations, but the negotiations are unlikely to produce the results South Korea and the US want, such as the scrapping of its nukes.

What the South should take note of is China's unusual moves. A Chinese newspaper published in a China-North Korea border area ran a feature on tips to survive a nuclear war. A Hong Kong news outlet reported that China plans to build five refugee camps along the border with the North. The plans seem to be in preparation for contingencies that could occur regarding North Korea.

Commander of the US forces in Korea Vincent Brooks recently visited the US Department of Defense, and there are speculations he discussed military options against the North.

Sen. Tom Cotton, Trump's likely pick for CIA director, said the Defense Department should move the families of American military personnel out of South Korea as North Korea pushes the US closer to military conflict.

The US state of Hawaii carried out an evacuation drill on Dec. 1 to prepare for a possible North Korean nuclear or missile attack. Tokyo will conduct mass evacuation drills between January and March to prepare residents for possible missile attacks. China is drawing up contingency plans with North Korea in mind.

Moon instructed military commanders last week to meet the conditions to regain South Korea’s wartime operational control from the US. Whether it is time to emphasize that is questionable.

The Moon administration must view the North Korea issue more realistically, not with wishful thoughts. Why is it trying to face away immediate threats from the North while other countries are busy preparing for them?

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