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2017-11-27 16:38
With Olympics just around the corner, peaceful mood is pivotal

The count is down to 70-plus days before the start of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games.

Instead of a festive mood and sense of anticipation, there is a big chill enveloping the lead-up to the quadrennial global festival because of North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats.

In order to reassure the world about the safety of the Games, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha Saturday had to bring in Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), on a tour of the facilities for diplomats and foreign dignitaries. Kang pointed to Gen. Brooks as the source of assurance to prevent the North’s naughty behavior. Kang also said the doors remain open for the North to participate in the Games but kept mum about whether the government was considering suspending the ROK-U.S. military exercises that are scheduled to coincide with the PyeongChang Olympics.

It would have been better, if a ROK general carried the same calming effect as Brooks or if Minister Kang had showed herself more in charge.

But Kang’s unimpressive safety-promotion tour provides a need, ironically, for Korea to take a more positive approach in assuring peace ahead of the Games.

For that, the government should disclose its intention to suspend ROK-U.S. joint exercises ― Foal Eagle and Key Resolve ― that involve hundreds of thousands of ROK and U.S. soldiers, among others.

True, the North strongly demands that ROK and U.S. stop their joint exercises, calling them a preparatory move to attack it. The North’s ulterior purpose lies more likely in thwarting the allies’ military interoperability and creating a schism in the alliance. So how the land lies is that Seoul is juggling with two equally important priorities ― getting the North committed to no provocations in exchange for the suspension of the drills and persuading the U.S. to come aboard.

Seoul doesn’t have the luxury of continuing the game of wait and see, because the time for the Olympic start is approaching fast. It won’t be completely ruled out that the PyeongChang Games, the Paralympics included, will get started and staged with the watch of U.S. aircraft carriers, B-1B and B-2 bombers and a fleet of nuclear submarines on patrol for attacks at key North Korean targets at a moment’s notice. That kind of tension could scare some countries to stay away from the Games, turning the PyeongChang Olympics into a near disaster.

Seoul should pre-empt Pyongyang with a unilateral declaration about the suspension of the military drills. That could amount to a pre-emptive “peace” attack that forces the North to refrain from the provocations and provide a chance to open dialogue during or after the Games. The unilateral nature of the declaration may enable the two allies to conduct the exercises later when and if the North misbehaves. That should be a caveat that the U.S. could live with.


 

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