South Korean President Moon once again explicitly rejected attacking North Korea:
In a nationally televised address on Wednesday, President Moon Jae-in also vowed to bolster South Korea’s military capabilities through increased defense spending, but said that South Korea shouldn’t develop or possess nuclear weapons.
“Our top priority is to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula,” he said. “Thus, armed conflict must be avoided under any circumstance [bold mine-DL]. No military action on the Korean Peninsula shall be taken without prior consent of the Republic of Korea,” he said, using the formal name for South Korea.
Moon’s position is understandable and entirely reasonable. South Korea would suffer enormous losses in the event of a war with North Korea, and there is no scenario in which an attack on the DPRK would be worth the cost. When the allied government that has the most to lose flatly rejects the idea of war with its neighbor, the U.S. should adapt its policy accordingly and rule out any suggestion of launching an attack.
The administration’s position that denuclearization is the only acceptable outcome is incompatible with Moon’s view that “armed conflict must be avoided under any circumstance.” North Korea won’t be persuaded to abandon its nuclear weapons, and South Korea won’t consent to military action that would be disastrous for them. The U.S. can’t compel Pyongyang to make the concessions that the administration wants, so there is no sense in continuing to have denuclearization as a goal. The more that U.S. officials keep insisting on on their unrealistic goal, the greater the strain they will place on the alliance with Seoul. In this case, the best way to avoid a war is to follow our ally’s lead.