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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 20)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 07:18 December 20, 2019

Avoid catastrophic end
Moon-Xi summit could help ease tensions

President Moon Jae-in will hold a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing next Monday. The summit will come just before Moon attends a trilateral summit among South Korea, China and Japan which is set for Dec. 23-24 in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu. The planned Moon-Xi summit is drawing attention as they are expected to discuss the geopolitical situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Moon might ask Xi and his country to persuade North Korea to return to nuclear talks with the United States to solve the problem through dialogue and compromise. The North has raised tensions recently by conducting two crucial tests ― probably missile engine tests ― to put more pressure on the U.S. to come up with new proposals over the stalled negotiation by the year-end deadline it has set. It has even threatened to send a "Christmas gift" to the U.S. unless the latter meets its demands.

Pyongyang has yet to specify what the gift will be. However, speculations have it that the North might carry out an ICBM test if it cannot get concessions from the U.S. The Kim Jong-un regime is apparently trying to turn the clock back by threatening to take a "new way." In response, Washington has hinted at using military force against the North in case the situation goes back to the 2017 "fire and fury" confrontation.

South Korea, for its part, should spare no diplomatic efforts to help defuse the tensions and revive the momentum for dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington. In this regard, we see the Moon-Xi meeting in a positive light. China still can exercise its influence over North Korea. It can also play a more active role in prodding the Kim regime to move toward denuclearization and peace on the peninsula.

It is worth noting that the summit will be held after China and Russia proposed Monday that the U.N. Security Council ease sanctions on the North. The two countries circulated a draft resolution aimed at lifting an embargo on North Korea's exports of seafood, textiles and statues. They also called for lifting a ban on North Koreans working abroad and the termination of a decision to repatriate all those workers by Dec. 22.

The draft resolution is another cause for concern. Beijing and Moscow are apparently trying to side with Pyongyang which has repeatedly demanded partial sanctions relief before starting denuclearization. As Washington points out, lifting or easing sanctions is premature. Such action could put the nuclear talks at risk and embolden the North to continue its nuclear program.

That is why Moon has to exercise his leadership and diplomatic finesse to prevent any catastrophic consequences. He should request China to dissuade the Kim regime from making further provocations. China along with Russia should not try to hurt joint international efforts to denuclearize the North and settle peace on the peninsula. It remains to be seen whether Moon can exhaust his diplomatic efforts to help get the precarious nuclear talks back on track.

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