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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 20)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 08:51 June 20, 2020

Security lineup reshuffle
: At stake is how to break out of crisis

President Moon Jae-in's top priority is to defuse tensions raised by North Korea. Most of all, Moon should spare no efforts to prevent the North from making further provocations against the South. To that end, he needs to reshuffle his security and diplomatic lineup.

Many politicians of both ruling and opposition camps have raised the need for changes to the current lineup, following the North's demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office in the border town of Gaeseong on Tuesday. Voices for replacing security chiefs and top diplomats are gaining strength especially after Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul offered to resign over his failure to stop Pyongyang from escalating tensions with verbal attacks and military threats.

One may argue that it is not the time to change officials in charge of security and diplomacy because they should not be blamed for the deteriorating situation on the peninsula. Of course, the Kim Jong-un regime must take all the responsibility for creating hostility and confrontation between the two Koreas.

It can be said that President Moon and his security and diplomacy team have done their best to improve ties with the North and settle peace on the peninsula. In this sense, it may be wrong to change the lineup, especially when the government is required to focus on dealing with the recalcitrant North.

It is also true that Seoul cannot get out of the ongoing crisis only by having new faces in the lineup. As an old saying goes, leaders do not usually change military commanders during a war. For this reason, Moon may try to retain his security and diplomatic policymakers in a bid to push for his policy of active engagement with the North consistently and coherently.

But Moon needs to pay heed to criticism that top security and diplomatic officials have been too optimistic about inter-Korean cooperation and exchanges and the North's move toward denuclearization. In other words, they have been naive and out of touch with the harsh reality.

In this context, President Moon had better install new security and diplomatic chiefs after accepting the unification minister's resignation. Of course, this is not to say that the presidential office should replace doves with hawks to make a tit-for-tat response to the North's provocations.

We have to admit that the President and his team have failed to detect the North's policy shift from dialogue to confrontation properly. In fact, Pyongyang has made it clear that it would stop nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and take its own path toward military buildup and economic self-reliance after the second summit between Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump ended in failure in February 2019.

At the same time, the Moon government has not properly responded to a series of short-range ballistic missile launches by the North last year and early this year. Thus, some policymakers need to take responsibility for this matter. Taken overall, it would be better to replace the national security chief, the intelligence head and the foreign minister to work out a new strategy to better cope with the worsening situation.
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