G-20 must face North Korean threat


The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - John Roe

The world be­came a markedly more dan­ger­ous and un­pre­dictable place on Tues­day when North Korea an­nounced it had suc­cess­fully tested its first in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic missile, a weapon that could strike Amer­i­can soil.

And to make the sit­u­a­tion even more fright­en­ing, Amer­ica’s er­ratic pres­i­dent, Don­ald Trump, ap­pears in­ca­pable of peace­fully con­tain­ing this sig­nif­i­cant threat to global se­cu­rity.

That leaves the world stand­ing, re­gret­tably, in an al­li­ga­tor-in­fested swamp with­out an exit plan.

If the North Korean claim is true, and many Western an­a­lysts say it is plau­si­ble, that iso­lated, to­tal­i­tar­ian, seem­ingly para­noid “Her­mit King­dom” could within a few years be able to hit the north­west coast of North Amer­ica — Alaska and even parts of Canada — with a nu­clear-tipped de­vice.

The United States has long been adamant it will not tol­er­ate North Korea ob­tain­ing such power.

In­deed, in Jan­uary, Trump pledged North Korea’s de­vel­op­ment of such a weapon “won’t hap­pen.”

Yet to­day, in de­fi­ance of his words, Py­ongyang may pos­sess that sup­pos­edly for­bid­den long-range missile and, by 2020, be able to arm it with a nu­clear weapon.

Of course, the pos­si­bil­ity North Korea could strike the con­ti­nen­tal U.S. with such lethal force — and trig­ger nu­clear re­tal­i­a­tion — is only part of a greater prob­lem.

It is in a far closer strik­ing range of two of its re­gional neigh­bours, South Korea and Ja­pan, who are staunch Amer­i­can al­lies.

The threat North Korea poses to mil­lions of lives and global peace did not emerge overnight.

On Mon­day, the day be­fore the missile test, China’s am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, Liu Jieyi, warned any fur­ther es­ca­la­tion of the al­ready high ten­sions with North Korea could re­sult in a cri­sis be­yond any­one’s con­trol, “and the con­se­quences would be dis­as­trous.”

The am­bas­sador urged key na­tions to sup­port China’s pro­pos­als for eas­ing ten­sions in the Korean Penin­sula.

A ma­jor part of that plan calls for “sus­pen­sion for sus­pen­sion” which would see North Korea stop test­ing missiles and nu­clear de­vices in re­turn for the U.S. and South Korea halt­ing mil­i­tary ex­er­cises in the re­gion. Trump may not be re­cep­tive to such com­pro­mise. He has, more­over, been crit­i­cal of China for be­ing un­able to rein in its North Korean neigh­bour.

What the world can see, how­ever, is that the Amer­i­can re­liance on eco­nomic sanc­tions against North Korea and pres­sur­ing China to solve the prob­lem haven’t worked. Nor have Trump’s hy­per­bolic threats and dis­plays of mil­i­tary might in the re­gion de­terred Korean leader Kim Jong-un from his nu­clear am­bi­tions.

In light of such fail­ure, Trump should give strong con­sid­er­a­tion to China’s pro­pos­als.

They might put the brakes on North Korea’s nu­clear drive, if not stop it en­tirely.

With the Group of 20 na­tions meet­ing in Ham­burg, Ger­many, on Fri­day, the world’s lead­ing eco­nomic and mil­i­tary pow­ers have a time, place and op­por­tu­nity in which to search out a diplo­matic so­lu­tion.

Canada’s prime min­is­ter, Justin Trudeau, may be able to play the hon­est bro­ker be­tween the U.S. and China, a coun­try with which he has es­tab­lished more cor­dial ties.

If noth­ing tried so far has worked, it’s time to try some­thing else.

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