02:44 GMT +327 May 2018
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    South Korea's new President Moon Jae-In speaks during a press conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul Wednesday, May 10, 2017

    North Korean Missile Tests Force Moon to Put New ‘Sunshine’ Policy on Hold

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    Experts claim that North Korea’s continued program of long range nuclear-capable missile tests will delay new South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s plan to revive the "Sunshine" policy of detente toward North Korea.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — North Korea’s continued program of long range nuclear-capable missile tests will delay new South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s plan to revive the "Sunshine" policy of detente toward North Korea, analysts told Sputnik.

    "So long as North Korea continues to conduct missile tests and expand nuclear activities, however, Moon Jae-in's capacity to resist US pressure will be constrained," Australian foreign policy analyst Crispin Rovere said on Monday.

    North Korea successfully launched a mid-to-long-range Hwangong-12 into the Sea of Japan in a test over the weekend.

    The success of the test would constrain Moon, who won a decisive national election victory last Tuesday in his hopes to defuse tensions with Pyongyang, Rovere cautioned.

    "President Moon may prefer a less confrontational approach, but he cannot be perceived as being indifferent to continued North Korean provocations," Rovere stated.

    Moon wants to revitalize the lapsed "sunshine policy" with the North followed by his dovish predecessors, South Korean Presidents Kim Jae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, reducing tensions through greater economic engagement with North Korea, Rovere explained.

    "This makes him temperamentally opposed to new American deployments that ratchet up tensions on the [Korean] peninsula," he said.

    However, Moon was unlikely to risk defying US President Donald Trump by scrapping the deployment of the Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, Rovere observed.

    "The THAAD deployment was rushed through by President Trump ahead of the South Korean election. While President Moon has promised to review the decision, he is unlikely to risk an alliance crisis by unwinding the decision now that it has been made," he stated.

    Moon would not risk antagonizing the Trump administration, Rovere predicted.

    "While President Moon is clearly opposed to THAAD, he is likely to accept these new missile defenses until such time as North Korea responds positively to his initiatives," he also said.

    The North Korean missile tests would also reduce China’s ability to bring diplomatic pressure to bear on South Korea, Rovere assessed.

    "China has legitimate concerns regarding what the proliferation of missile defenses means for its own strategic deterrent, yet while North Korea continues to threaten its neighbors it is difficult for China to press its case with Seoul," he remarked.

    International affairs analyst and historian Jeff Steinberg said Moon would also be constrained by the power of the South Korean armed forces if he wanted to scrap THAAD.

    "I doubt that Moon will immediately scrap the THAAD… The South Korean military has grown very independent and powerful, particularly during the weak Park presidency. They are deeply concerned… about threats from the North," added said.

    Even if THAAD did not prove to be a viable anti-artillery and anti-missile defense system, it could serve as a good will sign of continuing US military umbrella for South Korea, Rovere concluded.


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