S. Korean Unification Minister: Hey, maybe Kim Jong-un would use his nukes to reunify Korea under his rule

Atypically, the most unserious person in a left-wing Korean administration turns out not to be its Unification Minister. In an interview with Jonathan Cheng, the Wall Street Journal’s Seoul Bureau Chief, Cho Myoung-gyon concedes that Pyongyang may indeed have grander ambitions than defending itself against the Yankee hordes:

Mr. Cho also said that he was alarmed by increasing signals that North Korea sees its nuclear arsenal as a way to achieve its decades-old dream of unifying the Korean Peninsula under Pyongyang’s leadership. “Now that they are at the completion phase, they are coming up with new rhetoric that they haven’t been emphasizing for a long time, like unifying the peninsula under a socialist regime,” he said. Mr. Cho dismissed those aims as absurd. “I can say strongly and clearly that the unification that North Korea wants will never happen,” he said.

There is a rising debate in policy circles in Washington and Seoul about Pyongyang’s ultimate aims as it hones the ability to threaten the U.S. with a miniaturized nuclear device mounted onto a long-range missile. Some scholars and policy analysts fear that the North will use its nuclear arsenal to threaten South Korea and the U.S. into making concessions that it has long sought, such as ending annual joint U.S.-South Korean military drills and removing U.S. troops from South Korea.

That in turn could be a prelude to a war with South Korea, said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute think tank, who argues that the primary goal of North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program is to reunify the peninsula under Kim Jong Un. “A North Korea with nukes will become more aggressive towards a South without nukes,” Mr. Cheong said. Pyongyang’s threats to target Washington with nuclear weapons could deter the U.S. from engaging in any conflict on the peninsula, he said. [WSJ]

But don’t worry, he says. It will never happen.

If you won’t take it from me or from Professor Myers, then take it from Thae Yong-ho. The first implication of this is that even a “small” nuclear arsenal in North Korea represents an unacceptable threat of nuclear blackmail, to say nothing of proliferation. The second implication is that simply accepting North Korea as a nuclear state — as The Blob whose advice got us to this point now counsels us to do — isn’t the end of this crisis, it’s the beginning of a far more grave one.

We cannot live with a nuclear North Korea because it will not live with us.