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[Editorial] Repetitious tension

Seoul should push for sanctions on Pyongyang


North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, like his late grandfather and father, is striving to make a parade of the communist country’s military power both internally and on the international stage.

The young dictator appears more paranoid, compared to his late father and grandfather, about the possibility of regime collapse by a coup led by the country’s high-profile military officials.

It seems that Kim’s alleged trepidation over a military coup or civil revolt is pressing him to create habitual geopolitical risks on the Korean Peninsula. Internally in front of the North residents, he is seeking to foster a society of blind obedience by purging some senior officials.

Last August, the two sides reached an agreement to defuse the crisis stemmed from a landmine explosion. But with the situation back as before, it shows how fragile the peace and stability on the peninsula is.

Anti-Pyongyang loudspeakers from the South have resumed operations in border districts, while the North is sending batches of propaganda leaflets -- severely slandering President Park Geun-hye -- to border towns of the Seoul metropolitan area.

Further, a drone presumed to have come from North Korea violated the border on Wednesday, prompting the South’s military to fire warning shots and scramble fighter jets.

Some draft soldiers of South Korea, who are to finish their service in several weeks, are voluntarily applying for postponement of their discharge like it happened in August 2015.

The recurrent tension comes after North Korea conducted its fourth underground nuclear test -- claiming that it successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb -- early this month.

Pyongyang is threatening to respond to Seoul’s resumption of such broadcasts with “strong military action.” But the possibility of a direct military confrontation is practically low.

Kim’s rash acts are guaranteed by the country’s nukes. Last year, Pyongyang clarified that it had no plan to abandon its nuclear arsenal. Its unidentified foreign ministry spokesman said on TV that “the situation of the DPRK (North Korea) is different from that of Iran.”

The statement reiterated that the North’s pursuit of the nuke program is designed to protect the country from what it calls the United States’ hostile acts.

There has been little choice for Seoul in the face of Pyongyang’s provocations as the de facto nuclear power state though some global powerhouses do not acknowledge it.

Korea has no choice but to maintain patience and seek international coordination despite the lukewarm stance of China or some others.

Backed by neighboring powers, Seoul should reach the goal of getting the regime to recognize that its policy of developing nuclear programs and its economy in parallel will be unviable.

Kim will also see Iran’s economy bounce back rapidly in the coming years from resumption of crude exports, while a great portion of North Korean residents continue to live in extreme poverty. Further economic difficulty is inevitable if there are international sanctions.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama, in his address to Congress earlier this week, has not commented on the North’s nuclear test. Obama -- like his predecessors -- is likely to hand over the nuke issue on the Korean Peninsula unfinished to whoever will be the next president.

Even if Beijing and Washington take a wait-and-see stance, Seoul should not be negligent in calling for economic sanctions from the international community on Pyongyang. Provocations will continue as long as the Kim Jong-un regime does not collapse automatically.

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