SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - North Korea's test-firing of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) is a serious threat indeed. It is the North's eighth missile launch this year, and its fifth since September. All of the missiles are hard to intercept, and they target South Korea.
SLBMs, regarded as a game-changer in battle, are particularly threatening in that subs can move and fire missiles stealthily underwater.
The SLBMs recently developed by South Korea without nuclear weapons are entirely different from North Korea's, which can carry nuclear warheads.
It is easygoing and naive to view North Korea's missile provocations as an attempt to attract attention from the US or gain the upper hand in dialogue, despite the fast-paced upgrade of its arsenal.
President Moon Jae-in said late last month that North Korea was only raising tensions at a low level. Regarding North Korea's latest SLBM test, Song Young-gil, leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, made the absurd comment Wednesday (Oct 20) that it was comforting that the North had neither launched a long-range missile nor conducted an additional nuclear test, and that the need for dialogue had grown stronger.
The Moon regime tries hard to turn a blind eye to the North's threats in a bid to implore dialogue. North Korea's intentions are obvious. In January, it declared that it would develop new strategic nuclear weapons and strengthen its nuclear capabilities. According to plan, it has been test-firing an array of missiles.
That flies in the face of the South Korean government's view that the North is firmly committed to denuclearisation.
Though it is clear that Pyongyang has not changed course, the Moon administration is now absorbed in the push for a declaration of the end of the Korean War, which is technically in a state of truce, as if that were the holy grail.
South Korea's Unification Minister Lee In-young on Monday revealed his expectations of such a declaration, calling it a starting point for negotiations to denuclearise the North.
Seoul and Washington are said to have entered consultations on the issue after a series of visits to the US by South Korean officials.
In a situation where the North has never walked back its nuclear and missile threats, the Moon administration is pushing for an end-of-war declaration. This sends the North the message that it will be rewarded for escalating tensions.
Pyongyang has persistently demanded that South Korea and the US suspend their combined military drills and that Washington abandon its hostile policy toward the North. This is intended to drive a wedge between South Korea and the US -- and, further, to cause division in the South.
Pyongyang says merely declaring an end to the war would be of no use. It simply wants to use it as a means to get what it wants.
It is questionable if the government's push for an end-of-war declaration is based on wishful thinking, rather than an accurate analysis of reality.
Seoul and Washington ought to examine carefully whether declaring an end to the war as a way to start dialogue is worth accepting the North's demands for the permanent suspension of the US-South Korea combined exercises and the deployment of US military assets.
North Korea has developed its nuclear weapons and missiles through the repetition of a cycle of dialogue and provocation.
A rash declaration of the end of the war is likely to boost the North's persistent demands for a US troop withdrawal from the South and undermine South Korea's defence posture.
Pyongyang has never given up on the ultimate objective of communising the South. For North Korea, the declaration of the end of the Korean War is just one steppingstone on the path to that goal.
If Seoul wants an end-of-war declaration to advance true peace on the Korean Peninsula, it must put pressure on Pyongyang to first declare its nuclear weapons programs and then present its road map for scrapping them.
The South Korean government must grasp North Korea's intentions correctly and take precautions to deter its threats. Now is not the time to rush to declare the end of the war.
- The Korea Herald is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.