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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Oct. 22)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 07:13 October 22, 2018

Hope is not reality

President Moon Jae-in has returned from his seven-day trip to Europe after having summits with five government leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May. France and the UK are permanent members of the United Nations. Moon's trip to Europe could be deemed successful given the positive reaction Pope Francis showed when Moon delivered to him an invitation to Pyongyang on behalf of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week.

The pontiff has been respected as a "messenger of peace" since taking office in 2013, as seen in the monumental roles he played in normalizing U.S.-Cuban relations and striking a peace deal between the government and rebel forces in Colombia. A papal visit to North Korea can help achieve the denuclearization and transform the rogue state into a normal state.

But Moon's plea for an easing of sanctions on the North in the European theater suffered a critical setback despite his passionate call for support. He based his logic on the belief that it is the time for the international community to loosen the sanctions as North Korea has already crossed a point of no return in denuclearization. But his European hosts gave that notion the cold shoulder.

The French and British leaders even used the term CVID (complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization) — which is not used by Uncle Sam anymore — and are not convinced of the need to ease sanctions on the pariah state. As a result, the expression that the European Union demands North Korea implement a CVID was included in a joint statement at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), an intergovernmental process established in 1996 to foster dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe. That means Moon's attempt to raise Europe's support for an easing of sanctions failed.

That fiasco owes lot to the Moon administration's misguided sense of reality. If it really believed Europe would support the idea of accelerating the denuclearization if Seoul takes the lead in easing sanctions, that's a sheer miscalculation. Though the government has the conviction that easing sanctions will facilitate the North's denuclearization, Europe thought differently. It believed that only tightened sanctions will lead to denuclearization.

The United States also has decided not to hurry the denuclearization process. A second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim was expected to be held in November after the U.S. midterm elections, but the meeting seems to be delayed until 2019. As a result, the Moon administration's plan to accelerate inter-Korean exchanges next year after wrapping up an end-of-war declaration this year will most likely go down the drain. The government has trouble differentiating between hope and reality. The government will make a grave mistake if it adheres to its ill-conceived belief that the nuclear conundrum will be solved successfully if it takes the initiative on the denuclearization front.

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