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[Editorial] Pie in the sky

NK fires missiles, ridicules Moon a day after Liberation Day address; rhetoric of ‘peace economy’ empty

North Korea has intensified provocations and criticism of South Korea. The North test-fired two missiles and ridiculed the South a day after South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed to establish a “peace economy” in his Liberation Day speech commemorating the events of Aug. 15, 1945.

It is the sixth provocation in three weeks.

The missiles were fired only 50 kilometers from the Military Demarcation Line separating South and North Korea. That is how emboldened Pyongyang was.

The North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement that Pyongyang had nothing more to say to South Korean government officials, or any intention to sit face-to-face with them.

The committee bluntly dismissed Moon’s vision of a peace economy. Moon envisioned prosperity coming from peace between the two Koreas. His remarks would even provoke “side-splitting laughter” in “the boiled head of a cow,” the committee said.

The North also did not hesitate to make personal attacks on Moon.

It called the South Korean leader a “funny man as he reads what was written by his juniors” and “an impudent guy rare to be found.”

On Aug. 6, the day after Moon’s declaration that South Korea could catch up with Japan “in a breath” if a peace economy were established through inter-Korean economic cooperation, the North launched missiles. It warned the South not to “do anything for which it will get beaten up.”

North Korea’s contempt of the South went over the line. Cheong Wa Dae and the government should not ignore it as a fleeting backlash against the Korea-US joint military exercise, as if things will be OK after the drill.

Though the North raised military tension with missile provocations that it clarified targeted the South, Moon did not preside over a National Security Council meeting. Instead, he kept silent.

It is hard to deny the North fired missiles and mocked the South without reserve partly because Washington remains an idle onlooker, arguing they were short-range missiles incapable of reaching the US.

US President Donald Trump has downplayed the importance of US-Korea joint military drills, repeatedly complaining about security costs. He is responsible to some extent for the current situation.

Be that as it may, Seoul should not assume a passive posture toward Pyongyang’s escalating provocations and ridicule. The North feels safe belittling the South, apparently, because of the South’s submissive attitude as it waits patiently for Pyongyang to resume inter-Korean dialogue.

Moon’s remarks on North Korea in his Liberation Day address were like something out of a pipe dream. His wishful thinking was especially evident when he said North Korea had shifted its focus to the economy (from military might) and when he assured the country that he would get the North denuclearized before his term expired.

Negotiations on denuclearization are deadlocked because Pyongyang tried to advance a window-dressed proposal in exchange for sanctions relief.

Moon did not say a word about how he would denuclearize the communist state within his term.

The “peace economy” he envisioned will remain pie in the sky as long as the North remains armed with nuclear weapons.

The vision of “an unshakable country” he put forward in the address, referring to a unified Korea, is being shaken by North Korea.

Moon characterized people concerned about the North’s escalating provocations as instigators of inter-Korean confrontation. He is adamant in his preaching that peace will come soon.

But the North is cementing its status as a nuclear power, and is ridiculing and threatening the South more and more audaciously. It has never given up on its ultimate objective of unifying Korea under communism.

Still, Moon has set his eyes on a peace economy involving such an unruly state.

This rosy picture of the future is plausible, but his rhetoric is empty. It alone cannot prevent the nation from being shaken.

The government ought to look dispassionately at the realities. North Korea launched missiles and sneered at the South a day after Moon talked about peace. This is the truth about the North.

Seoul must respond sternly to Pyongyang’s derision and provocations.