Dialogue or pressure to denuclearize North Korea?
North Korea has turned down Donald Trump’s threats of ‘fire and fury’ as well as ‘load of nonsense’ as ‘bereft of reason’ and announced a detailed plan to launch missiles aimed at the waters off the coast of the US Pacific territory of Guam, a 210 sq mile (544 sq km) sovereign US territory in the western Pacific Ocean, which is used by the US as a strategic military base. Almost a third of its land is controlled by the US military and about 6,000 American troops are based there. The threat has come as a response to the UN sanctions which was passed unanimously in the House. China, North Korea’s closest ally, believes that after the UN sanctions, the situation on the Korean peninsula is entering into ‘a very critical phase’. So they urged Pyongyang not to provoke the international community with further missile or nuclear tests.
On last Sunday, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi hoped that the move would help North Korea’s leaders make ‘the right and smart decision’ about their weapons program. Wang pronounced the warning a day after the UN Security Council voted unanimously to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang. He warned North Korea: ‘Do not violate the UN decision or provoke the international community’s goodwill by conducting missile launches or nuclear tests. He also expected calmness on the North Korean part about the UN sanctions. But North Korea defied the warning from China and presented a detailed plan for launching four more missiles.
Earlier, US president Donald Trump accused China for its laxity in solving the issue with North Korea. He twitted:
‘I am very disappointed in China,’ Trump wrote. ’Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet … they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. ‘We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!’ he added.
Damian Green, the UK’s first secretary of state, urged the administration to use UN processes to resolve the crisis. ‘It’s obviously in all our interests to make sure that nothing escalates,’ Green said on a visit to Edinburgh. ‘We are very strongly in support of the UN process, which has and continues to put pressure on North Korea to stop acting in an irresponsible way.’
Just a week before, North Korea’s second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) led to the region’s latest crisis which stirred the international community to pressure North Korea to sit for discussion. The UN sanctions, Wang believes, have been designed ‘to efficiently, or more efficiently, block North Korea’s nuclear missile development.’ ‘The purpose is to pull the peninsula nuclear issue back to the negotiating table, and to seek a final solution to realise the peninsula denuclearization and long-term stability through negotiations,’ Wang said. ‘After the resolution is passed, the situation on the peninsula will enter a very critical phase,’ China’s state broadcaster CGTN reported him as saying. ‘We urge all parties to judge and act with responsibility in order to prevent tensions from escalating.’
The UN sanctions include a ban on more than $1bn worth exports and a large amount of North Korea’s total exports valued approximately $3bn. NO country will provide any additional work permit for North Korean workers which will make a huge cut of the foreign currencies for the country. Moreover, all new joint ventures with North Korean companies and foreign investment in existing ones are not permitted. In addition, the UN sanctions have blacklisted nine North Korean officials or representatives of companies and banks, which prevent travel and freezes assets. An asset freeze has also been imposed on two companies and two banks. The US-drafted sanctions were negotiated with China, North Korea’s chief ally, and are designed for making Pyongyang return to negotiations on its nuclear program.
The countries on the other side of North Korea are happy with the UN sanctions. Japan welcomed the tougher sanctions on North Korea and said it was time to exert more ‘effective pressure’ on Pyongyang rather than to pursue dialogue. ‘Now is not the time for dialogue but the time to increase effective pressure on North Korea so that they will take concrete actions towards de-nuclearisation,’ said deputy foreign ministry spokesman Toshihide Ando. On Saturday, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, stressed on taking further action against North Korea. Haley spoke to the UN security council after the 15-member body imposed the sanctions against North Korea in response to its two long-range missile tests in July. ‘We should not fool ourselves into thinking we have solved the problem,’ Haley said. ‘Not even close. The North Korean threat has not left us. It is rapidly growing more dangerous. ‘Further action is required. The United States is taking and will continue to take prudent defensive measures to protect ourselves and our allies.’ She also re-affirmed that Washington would continue annual military exercises with South Korea. ‘All of this ICBM and nuclear irresponsibility has to stop,’ Haley told reporters as she headed to the council to vote. Later, she told council members the sanctions represented ‘the single largest economic package ever leveled against the North Korean regime’.
The US national security adviser, HR McMaster, earlier said Trump had been ‘deeply briefed’ on Pyongyang’s recent missile tests and that the US would do ‘everything we can to pressure this regime’ while seeking to avoid ‘a very costly war’. McMaster was interviewed early on Saturday by the MSNBC host Hugh Hewitt. As it was ‘impossible to overstate the danger’ posed by North Korea, he said, the Trump administration was keeping all options, including a targeted military strike, on the table. But he acknowledged that any conflict ‘would be a very costly war, in terms of the suffering of mainly the South Korean people’. ‘So what we have to do is everything we can to pressure this regime, to pressure Kim Jong-un and those around him, such that they conclude it is in their interest to denuclearize,’ McMaster said
While urging North Korea to stop missile or nuclear tests, China tries to mediate the opposing sides and to reach at a negotiating point. They also asked the US to stop propagation of the preparation of the war. China’s ambassador to the UN, Liu Jieyi, called for a halt to the deployment of the US Thaad anti-ballistic missile defence system in South Korea and for relevant equipment to be dismantled. ‘The deployment of the Thaad system will not bring a solution to the issue of [North Korea’s] nuclear testing and missile launches,’ Liu said, while urging Pyongyang to ‘cease taking actions that might further escalate tensions’.
What could be the ‘smart’ solution to the tensions in the Korean peninsula? The UN believes that the sanctions they have imposed on Pyongyang will block the country economically. Ultimately, it will compel them to sit at the negotiating table; they have threatened to strike at Guam, an American territory in the Pacific Ocean. The UN hunch may prove wrong. Other giant countries, following China, should come forward to save our planet.
(The author is a free-lancer)