Warning of 'use of force' only raises tension
U.S. President Donald Trump has warned of possible use of military force against North Korea as a war of nerves is escalating between Pyongyang and Washington over the year-end deadline set by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for a denuclearization deal.
Trump's latest remarks remind people here of a speech he made at the United Nations in 2017, in which he threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea amid rising tensions over its nuclear and missile programs.
This time, the context was very different, but his reference to a possible strike on North Korea proved again his lack of discretion - he knows nothing about what that means to South Korea and its people. If by any chance it was intentional to use fear in the South to make it agree to pay more for the U.S. troop presence here in the ongoing defense cost-sharing negotiations, he is just out of his mind. We hope this is pure speculation.
While commenting on North Korea and its leader Kim in London, Tuesday, Trump told reporters that the U.S. has the most powerful military ever, and it is by far the most powerful country in the world. "And, hopefully, we don't have to use it, but if we do, we'll use it. If we have to, we'll do it," he said. He also claimed again that if he hadn't become president, the U.S. would have been at war with the North.
It is worrisome that the president of the U.S. is mentioning these things regarding North Korea without considering how South Koreans feel. Such a threat is not at all helpful in seeking a deal with the North. This is all the more so because South Korea has opposed any U.S. military action against the North as a solution to ending the nuclear threat. Everyone knows the reason. So it is partly true that Trump ignored South Korea when he mentioned the use of force against the North. As such, it was quite natural for South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha to react with deep concern, saying that there will be no war again on the Korean Peninsula in a speech at a security forum in Seoul, Wednesday. The top priority should be to keep the North on the track of dialogue toward denuclearization.
Trump may have spoken as he did to warn North Korea not to cross a line he drew even if a denuclearization deal was not reached by the end of the year. Kim has urged the U.S. to come up with an acceptable proposal within this year, or he will take a "new path," implying that the North may resume nuclear or long-range ballistic missile testing. In a statement issued Tuesday, the North's Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae-song said, "It is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get."
However, Trump should know even if the denuclearization talks fall through and North Korea returns to the past, efforts should continue to seek a diplomatic solution. Threats of military force can only aggravate the situation.