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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Sept. 15)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:03 September 15, 2023

Block the risky deal by int'l coordination

In his letters to U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 and 2019, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un repeatedly used the honorific "Your Excellency," often adding "My respect for you will never change." The Central Intelligence Agency called it "the masterpiece of flattery." In a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday at a vast space base in the Russian Far East, Kim branded the United States an imperial force, vowing to join Russia's sacred battle against America.

Kim completely reversed his earlier message in a meeting with another isolated leader four years later. What would be an imperial state today, if not Russia that invaded Ukraine for its own territorial greed? Kim's betrayal and anachronistic sense of the world makes us wonder what age he lives in.

After the summit with Putin, Kim most likely traded his conventional weapons for Russia's satellite and missile technology. If Russia transfers that technology to the North to help it develop spy satellites and ICBMs, it will pose a serious security threat to the South and the United States. If the North receives strategic nuclear submarine technology from Russia, it can launch a nuclear strike at the U.S. mainland.

If the swap is realized, it spells an unrivaled disaster for South Korea and the rest of the world. It will lead to the collapse of international sanctions on Russia and North Korea, while dramatically raising the North's nuclear and missile threats. Seoul must use all diplomatic leverage to pressure Moscow to stop the perilous trade and start building a joint front to effectively deal with the alarming developments.

The United States and the EU must increase their weapons supply to Ukraine, reinforce their sanctions on Russia, and let Moscow realize the harms its military technology transfer will bring about. At the same time, they must block North Korea from importing ammonium nitrate needed to produce shells for Russia. The Kim-Putin deal can be broken if the international community unites.

Given the distance China wants to keep from North Korea and Russia on top its wariness about the "honeymoon," Seoul must closely cooperate with Washington and Tokyo to encourage Beijing to check the risky trade between Pyongyang and Moscow. A South Korea-China-Japan summit expected to be held at the year's end can serve as a venue for such diplomatic efforts. The government must strengthen the Korea-U.S. joint military drills, ensure the nuclear deterrence, and heighten the level of our own defense systems to cope with the repercussions of the North-Russia rapprochement.

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