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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Oct. 21)

All News 07:03 October 21, 2021

SLBM test-firing dashes hopes for dialogue

North Korea test-fired a new-type of submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) Tuesday, scoffing at the U.S. and South Korea's efforts to restart stalled denuclearization talks. Pyongyang should realize that its military provocations will only raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula and deepen its isolation from the international community.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Wednesday that the new SLBM, launched from Sinpo ― the site of a major submarine building facility ― into the East Sea, was equipped with state-of-the-art technologies such as "flank mobility and gliding skip mobility." The agency said the launch would enhance the country's military technology and greatly contribute to improving its underwater operational capabilities.

The test-firing of the missile deserves condemnation although Pyongyang said it was part of its efforts to step up its self-defense posture. Regrettably, the provocation comes amid diplomatic overtures by South Korea, the United States and Japan to resume dialogue with the recalcitrant state. Since President Moon Jae-in proposed a declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War last month, the U.S. has been moving proactively, reaffirming its commitment to resolve the nuclear standoff through dialogue and diplomacy.

Currently, representatives on the North Korea nuclear issue and intelligence chiefs from the South, U.S. and Japan are exploring ways to restart the deadlocked talks with Pyongyang. South Korean nuclear envoy Noh Kyu-duk met with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts, Sung Kim and Takehiro Funakoshi, to discuss how to lure Pyongyang back to the negotiating table in return for incentives such as humanitarian assistance and other support to the impoverished North.

Despite the North's saber-rattling, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the missile tests underline the urgent need to have dialogue with Pyongyang. She added the U.S. remains ready to engage with the North anytime and anywhere. Some pundits point out that the North's military action could be a response to the South's move to build up its military capabilities. Seoul recently test-launched its own SLBM from a 3,000-ton submarine, becoming the world's seventh nation to develop the required missile technology.

Nevertheless, we strongly condemn the North's SLBM launch as it dampened multilateral efforts for peace on the Korean Peninsula. The North has launched eight missiles so far this year, including ballistic missiles and what it claimed was a hypersonic one. The firing of the SLBM, in particular, is another apparent violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning Pyongyang from developing ballistic missile technology.

It is absurd for the North to criticize the South for adopting what it condemned as "double standards." Pyongyang should not repeat its demand for the withdrawal of the U.S.'s "hostile policy" toward the Kim Jong-un regime, while justifying its military provocation as self-defense. We urge North Korea to stop such military activities and return to dialogue immediately. The U.S., for its part, should get tougher with the North for its provocative acts, but offer more incentives to entice Pyongyang to take the path toward denuclearization and peace.

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