The Church has been offering an alternative moral vision to replace war ideology
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Nov. 27 shows North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (center right) and his daughter (center left) posing with soldiers who contributed to the test-firing of the new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), at an unknown location in North Korea. (Photo: KCNA via KNS/ AFP)
US President Joe Biden was 11 years old when curtains fell on the Korean war in 1953, but technically America, headed by the octogenarian Biden, is still in a state of war with North Korea.
In the course of time, the world believed North Koreans would someday get rid of the Communist party, either through an uprising or through a coup, and the Peninsula would reunite, like Germany. It still remains wishful thinking.
What is currently taking place in the Korean peninsula has been extraordinary, to say the least. Nuclearization, which Pope Francis, the Korean Church and the US worked hard to prevent, is slowly becoming a reality.
The Korean Church is considering the Advent season propitious enough to resume talks between North and South Korea.
Nearly 100 priests, scholars, and theologians wanted it when they assembled for the seventh edition of the "Forum for sharing peace on the Korean peninsula,” an initiative by the Archdiocese of Seoul, which also covers Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, on Nov. 26.
We are all for “reconciliation and unity between the two Koreas,” the forum said in a statement.
The forum takes inspiration from the August 2014 papal visit to the Korean Peninsula when he succinctly called for inter-Korean dialogue and sought humanitarian assistance to “our North Korean brothers.”
Attending the forum meeting, Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, Apostolic Nuncio to South Korea, encouraged “a discussion to explore concrete paths for our common commitment to the ideals of peace and reconciliation on Korean soil.”
When Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong tried to churn out their first atom bombs, the West wanted preemptive strikes to prevent them. But that did not happen.
In the same way, when Kim Jong-un tried to lay his hands on nuclear weapons, the US wanted to stop him. But today Kim is standing tall after the test of the new Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), capable of reaching the US mainland and dropping nuclear warheads on different targets simultaneously.
Posing for photos with the scientists and engineers involved in the test on Nov. 18, Kim pledged to counter US nuclear threats with nuclear weapons.
The Hwasong-17 – the largest road-mobile and liquid-fueled ICBM in the world – can fly up to 999.2 km with a maximum altitude of 6,040.9 kilometers, according to the official North Korean news agency, KCNA.
In that case, it could cover “the entire mainland United States,” Japan’s defense ministry concluded while reacting to the latest ICBM test by North Korea.
Once again, North Korea reiterated that its missile tests were defensive amid the joint military drill between South Korea and the United States in the region. North Korea sees the joint exercises as “a rehearsal for invasion.”
Following the Nov. 18 test, the US moved the UN and urged the Security Council to hold North Korea accountable for its missile tests, which are proscribed under Security Council resolutions.
Even though North Korea repeatedly went against the multiple UNSC resolutions by conducting ICBM tests this year, a unified response did not come as China and Russia, the permanent members of the UNSC, have vetoed imposing additional sanctions on the North, which is currently facing near-total economic isolation.
With the Hwasong-17 missiles, that can take North Korean firepower up to US shores, the Korean peninsula has entered a dangerous new phase in the arms race with no point of return.
North Korea-US nuclear talks and inter-Korean dialogue have collapsed since the Hanoi summit between Trump and Kim proved inconclusive in 2019.
Since the US has more than it can chew, for Washington, Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs are not a priority.
Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine and the flare-up in the Taiwan Strait, the Biden administration is not keen on seeking a breakthrough; rather it prefers the status quo on the Peninsula.
Since the North is almost becoming a nuclear-armed country, the United States is in no mood to revive the six-party talks due to the nuclear domino effect in the entire region. It also fears the intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach American shores could give more bargaining power to the North.
Above all, the US has its nuclear capabilities ready and aimed at the Korean Peninsula. Since it withdrew land-based nukes in 1991, the US has maintained nuclear capability via local submarine-based SSBNs and US-based ICBMs.
It has also deployed its ubiquitous fleet of B-52s, B-1s, and B-2s to intimidate the North from trying the inevitable.
But South Korea is not ready to sit on the oars. New South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who assumed office in May, has prioritized the country’s self-defense capabilities against the North’s nuclear and missile threats and has further cemented Seoul’s ties with the iron-clad military pacts with the US, which, in turn, has infuriated the North with more missile tests.
Yoon has also ordered the military to strengthen the trilateral security pact with the United States and Japan. Already, many South Koreans have come forward to support the government's plans to develop its own nuclear weapons.
In contrast to this single-minded focus on militarism by the US and two Koreas to perpetuate the forever war in the Peninsula, the Church has been offering an alternative moral vision to replace war ideology. This vision is all for an undivided Korea.
While meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Oct 29, 2021, who traveled to the Vatican to meet the Holy Father for the second time since 2018, the pope observed that the sufferings of generations of Koreans have the potential to lay the foundation for a lasting peace, which can show the world that all is not lost.
The pope has put the ball in the people’s court. But politicians are not in the mood to allow them to play.
The enormous money and resources shelled out by them on arms would have made the Peninsula one of the most prosperous regions in the world, going by the current economic standard of the South –the 4th largest economy in Asia and the 10th largest in the world.
A unified Korea is the need of the hour as massive hunger and economic disasters are looming large over other Asian nations.
*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.
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