US key to DPRK nuclear issue
OnWednesday, President of the Republic of KoreaParkGeun-hye askedChinesePresidentXi Jinping to persuade the DemocraticPeople’s Republic ofKorea not to conduct a fourth nuclear testwhenUSPresident BarackObamavisits theROK.
Concern has grown in theROKthat theDPRK “could spark an arms race and a nuclear domino effect that could change the security landscape in NortheastAsia”.
China and theROKhave entered the era of bestever relationship, and the DPRK’s nuclear tests pose a threat not only to theROK, but alsoChina’s border security.
TheUnited States has been urgingChina to press theDPRKon one hand while encouraging Japan to provokeChina on the other.
In written remarks published by Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun, Obama said “The policy of theUnited States is clear— the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of Article 5 of theUS-Japan Treaty ofMutual Cooperation and Security. And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands.”
Uncle Sam is really a business man who wants to gain without pain. TheUS is pouring fuel on the flames, so that the DPRK is pushed into conducting a fourth nuclear test, which will undermine China’s security and drive a wedge between China and the DPRK. Moreover, theUS can fully make use of the DPRK’s nuclear threat to strengthen US-Japan-ROK trilateral cooperation, and eventually form a “miniNATO” in Asia to contain China and Russia.
Infact, the ball is in theUS’ court. If it truly wants to resolve theDPRKnuclear issue, it has to abandon the schemes to containRussia andChina with the DPRKnuclear card.
Inhis effort to build themomentumfor Obama’s visit toAsia, USAssistant Secretary of State for East AsiaDannyRussel came up with some impractical suggestions. For instance, addressing a conference organized byAsia Society on April 1, he saidChina could help reduceUS military deployments in East Asia by using its “influence” over theDPRKto guide it to the right path. By saying theUS would reduce troops in EastAsia ifChinamadetheDPRKabandon its nuclear program, Russel has wrongly assumed that Beijing has the power to control Pyongyang. Besides, his statement implies that ifChina doesn’t do so, theUS will continue consolidating its forces in EastAsia in order to protect itsAsian allies, especially theROKand Japan.
PerhapsRussel does not know that military might cannot resolve theKorean Peninsula nuclear issue and the best way of resolving it is for theUS to withdrawtroops from theROKand sign a peace agreement with theDPRK.
China’s efforts to resolve theDPRKnuclear issue and ease tensions on thePeninsula have yielded results, and the international community acknowledges that. But some countries with ulterior motives say thatChina has not exerted enough pressure on theDPRKtomake it abandon its nuclear program. They also say thatChina’s trade with and humanitarian aid to theDPRKhave seriously undermined the impact of theUNsanctions on the country and helped it to develop nuclear weapons.
Nothing could be further from the truth. By portraying the DPRK as a military threat, theUS and its some of its Asian allies aim to realize their own strategic goals. The Peninsula nuclear issue has become the best excuse for theUS to push forward its “pivot to Asia” policy and strengthen its military ties with its Asian allies. The development of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and the evolution of America’s DPRK policy show thatWashington has been exaggerating Beijing’s influence on Pyongyang.
Whycan’t theUS and its allies understand that the DPRKis a sovereign country, and the pressure put by another country orUNsanctions alone will notmake it abandon its nuclear program?
After the DPRK conducted its third nuclear test, theUS strengthened its strategic presence in East Asia by deploying more advanced weapons on the Peninsula and carrying out more elaborate joint drills with the ROK. Ironically, what theUS thought would act as deterrence against the DPRK deterred the efforts to resolve the DPRK nuclear issue.
The year began with some positive signs, with the DPRK and the ROK holding high-level talks and organizing a reunion of separated families. Unfortunately, the good momentum was broken by the annual US-ROK military drills — “Key Resolve” and “Foal Eagle 2014”. Washington and Seoul then carried out their biggest joint amphibious-landing and air-combat drills. Reacting to them, Pyongyang fired dozens of short-range missiles over the sea off its eastern coast and hundreds of artillery shells in the waters near the disputed DPRK-ROK maritime border. It also threatened to conduct another nuclear test if the US stuck to its hostile policy.
Maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula is in the interest of not only the DPRK, the US and the ROK, but also all the countries in the region and beyond; it is their responsibility too. Therefore, during his visit to the ROK, Obama should use his diplomatic and political powers to restore peace and stability on the Peninsula. But for that, the US has to renounce its containment policy toward the DPRK, reduce the number of or even cancel joint military exercises with the ROK, lower the threshold for resuming the Six-Party Talks and strengthen cooperation with countries in East Asia. The US should realize that it can help resolve the Peninsula nuclear issue only through peaceful talks, not by flexing its military muscle. The author is an associate researcher at the Center forNortheast Asian Studies, a research institute in Jilin province.