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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Aug. 22)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:06 August 22, 2022

New strategy needed
North Korea rejects Yoon's 'audacious' initiative

North Korea has rejected President Yoon Suk-yeol's "audacious" initiative under which Seoul would offer generous economic aid if Pyongyang takes denuclearization steps. The rejection should not come as a surprise because only a few expected the North to accept the offer.

Yet it is disgusting to hear a scathing commentary issued by Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and vice department director of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party, Friday. The commentary full of insolent and rude expressions came four days after Yoon unveiled the initiative in his Aug. 15 National Liberation Day speech.

Kim Yo-jong, who is known to be in charge of inter-Korean affairs, denounced Yoon's plan as the "height of absurdity." She also denigrated it as a copy of former conservative President Lee Myung-bak's failed proposal to increase the North's per capita GDP to $3,000 if the North scraps its nuclear program.

It is regrettable for her to make it clear that the North has no intention of denuclearizing itself. She pointed out that it is wrong for Yoon to make offers for the North's denuclearization, vowing not to sit face to face with him. She should feel shameful for lambasting Yoon by his name in her lengthy tirade carried by the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

What's frustrating is that Seoul has no effective means to respond to what was seen as an insult to President Yoon. The presidential office only expressed regret over what Kim said. As it warned, the North's irrational attitude will only escalate tension on the Korean Peninsula and deepen its international isolation. It is wrong for the Kim Jong-un regime to believe that nuclear armament will ensure the North's security and survival.

What's worrisome is that Pyongyang shows no signs of stopping its military provocations. The North test-fired two cruise missiles toward the West Sea on Wednesday, the same day Yoon held a press conference marking his 100th day in office. It might continue to launch ballistic missiles in protest of the resumption of the South Korea-U.S. joint military drill, known as the Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS), which is scheduled for Aug. 22 to Sept. 1. No one can rule out the possibility of the North conducting its seventh nuclear test anytime soon.

Against this backdrop, the Yoon administration needs to map out a new strategy to deal with the recalcitrant North. The economic aid-for-denuclearization formula will not work anymore as the Kim regime continues to develop its nuclear arsenal. Doubts are growing that Pyongyang will ever give up its nuclear ambitions.

President Yoon has faced criticism that his "audacious" initiative is not realistic enough to lure the North back to dialogue and prod it to take a path of denuclearization. His administration should work more closely with Washington to deal with Pyongyang and ensure peace and stability on the peninsula.

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