(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Jan. 15)

Lai Ching-te, the presidential candidate from Taiwan's Democratic Progressive party, won the election on Saturday. Lai, a pro-U.S. politician, advocates for Taiwan's independence and even wants to use English as the country's official language. Upon his nomination as the presidential candidate of the party, China called him a "traitor" and "trouble maker" in the same context as President Xi Jinping's emphasis of "One China" in December. If China-Taiwan relations deteriorate, it will likely heighten the tensions in U.S.-China relations and Northeast Asia security. The problem is the possibility of North Korea pushing the security situation to the limits. At the year-end full meeting of the Workers' Party, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called the two Koreas "two hostile countries at war," not the previous "same people countries." His declaration violates the 1991 Basic Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-Aggression and Exchanges, which defined the inter-Korean relations as "special ones." Kim's proclamation tr anslates into a rejection of unification based on the principle "one people and one nation, and two political systems and two governments." In the 2000 summit in Pyongyang, his father Kim Jong-il signed the June 15 Joint Declaration which recognized commonalities between the South's proposal for a loose association of the two states and the North's proposal for a low-level federal system. Kim Jong-un's portrayal of the South-North relations as "countries at war" and his pledge to "conquer the entire territory of South Korea" means a threat to unify the divided land with nuclear weapons. North Koran experts like Robert Carlin and Siegfried Hecker evaluated the peninsula situation as the most tense since the Korean War. Defense Minister Shin Won-sik shows a strong determination to retaliate against the North's provocations "immediately, powerfully and to the last minute." But the government must not ignore the need for crisis management at the same time. If the presidential office and all security-related min istries only raise strong voices, it will certainly help escalate the likelihood of a regional military clash or a bigger conflict. President Yoon Suk Yeol needs to send messages more prudently. Shortly after the presidential election in Taiwan, U.S. President Joe Biden started crisis management saying he doesn't want Taiwan's independence. Our Foreign Ministry must demonstrate flexibility, and the Unification Ministry must find its appropriate role and solutions to address the North Korean leader's declaration of "two different states at war." The government also must reinforce the Korea-U.S.-Japan security cooperation and advance the extended deterrence. Source: Yonhap News Agency