US key to DPRK nu­clear is­sue

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

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.

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