The Korea Herald


Moon heads to UN meeting as NK nukes loom over world

By Choi He-suk

Published : Sept. 18, 2017 - 17:39

    • Link copied

President Moon Jae-in on Monday left for New York to attend the UN General Assembly, where he is expected to address world leaders on the growing problem of North Korea.

On the sidelines of the event, Moon is set to hold a series of summit talks including talks with US and Japanese leaders on Thursday. The South Korean president is also scheduled to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. A separate meeting with US President Donald Trump is also being arranged. 

President Moon Jae-in and First Lady Kim Jung-sook wave on their way to New York on Monday. Yonhap President Moon Jae-in and First Lady Kim Jung-sook wave on their way to New York on Monday. Yonhap

While it remains to be seen what measures Moon will seek, it is widely expected that he will call for closer international collaboration in pressuring North Korea.

Despite seeking tougher measures against North Korea, Seoul reportedly does not plan to raise the question of whether North Korea qualifies to be a UN member at this year’s event. The question was first raised by former Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se at last year’s UN General Assembly, held some 10 days after North Korea’s fifth nuclear test.

Moon began his presidency calling for dialogue with North Korea, but on Sept. 15, Moon declared dialogue impossible and hinted that further measures would be sought against Pyongyang.

“The government will not idly look at North Korea’s provocations and will work with the international community to draw up practical measures that can change North Korea’s behavior,” Moon said at a National Security Council meeting held immediately after the North’s missile launch Friday.

“Dialogue is impossible under these circumstances. Pressure and sanctions from the international society will tighten to force North Korea into talks.”

The turnaround in his position was brought about by the rapidly escalating provocations from North Korea.

Since Moon took office on May 10, North Korea has launched missiles of varying ranges on 10 occasions, two of which involved projectiles flying over Japan. Pyongyang also conducted its sixth nuclear weapons test on Sept. 3.

In response, Moon has ordered additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense launchers to be deployed at a site in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province.

Despite the move being heavily criticized by opponents and China, the administration has defended the measure as being unavoidable in light of Pyongyang’s rapidly advancing missile technologies.

In addition, Moon attempted to recruit Moscow’s help in cutting off North Korea’s fuel supply in his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of the UN Security Council’s latest resolution adopted on Sept. 11.

Under Moon’s watch, South Korea has come closer to having its missile guidelines eased. Seoul and Washington agreed to the guidelines in the 1960s. South Korea’s missile range and payload is currently limited to 800 kilometers and 500 kilograms, respectively.

Following Pyongyang’s missile launch on Aug. 29, Moon and Trump agreed to lift the payload restriction. The administration has also hinted at more US military assets being deployed here, while Moon has emphasized the need to bolster Seoul’s own capabilities on numerus occasions.

While world leaders prepared to congregate for the UN General Assembly, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that engaging Pyongyang would be ineffective, while indirectly criticizing those who argue for diplomatic solutions in an op-ed piece carried in Monday’s edition of the New York Times.

“Still, prioritizing diplomacy and emphasizing the importance of dialogue will not work with North Korea. History shows that concerted pressure by the entire international community is essential,” the Japanese prime minister wrote.

Although Moon has taken on a tougher stance, the South Korean leader has emphasized peaceful and diplomatic efforts on numerous occasions, along with China and Russia.

Citing previous attempts to reward North Korea for appearing to comply with international demands, only to have the country resume its nuclear programs, Abe went on to argue that dialogue “would be a dead end.”

“Pyongyang would see more talks as proof that other countries succumbed to the success of its missile launches and nuclear tests. Now is the time to exert the utmost pressure on the North. There should be no more delays.”

By Choi He-suk (