Talks can help ease Pyongyang’s woes
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea announced last week that the rulingWorkers’ Party of Korea will hold its 7th Congress in Pyongyang onMay 6. It will be the first major conference of the party in 36 years and the first under current DPRK leader Kim Jong-un.
The ensuing changes in the party’s rank and file are expected to be big and will have far-reaching implications on the country. The conference could see the Workers’ Party of Korea strengthening its hold over the military. It is also expected to highlight Kim’s major political achievements in the more than four years he has been in power, especially in the development of nuclear weapons and deployment of ballistic missiles.
On the diplomatic front, the DPRK, which is suffering the consequences of the UN sanctions and could change its mindset and hint at reconciling with the international community.
The passing of Resolution 2270 by the UN Security Council onMarch 2 against the DPRK despite its concerns for the wellbeing of the country’s ordinary people has put added pressure on the Pyongyang leadership.
To facilitate the country’s economic recovery and create a benign environment for the party, the country’s leadership should have sought to hold dialogues with other countries, such as the United States. But instead of doing so, the DPRK declared on April 23 that it had successfully test-fired a strategic submarine ballistic missile, apparently to welcome the party congress and boost people’s morale, and thus created more uncertainties on the Korean Peninsula.
The UN Security Council strongly condemned Pyongyang’s latest ballistic missile test, and urged it to “refrain from further actions in violation of the relevant resolutions and comply fully with its obligations under these resolutions, including sus- pending all activities related to its ballistic missile program”. Concerns were also raised regarding the DPRK’s possible fifth nuclear test given the increased activities near its main nuclear test site in the northeastern region, where it has conducted all of its four nuclear tests.
The DPRK’s nuclear advocacy has been increasingly clear since 2013, when it decided to simultaneously pursue economic development and nuclear power. But the truth is, its nuclear strategy has only pushed the Republic of Korea closer to the US and strengthened their military alliance, injecting fresh momentum into the long-stalled deployment of the US-sponsored Terminal High Altitude Area Defense antimissile system on the Korean Peninsula. The DPRK’s wrong decision has given the US a good excuse to strengthen its military presence on the peninsula, which will pose huge strategic threats to Russia, China as well as the DPRK.
Pyongyang would commit a grave mistake if it continues to believe that its national security depends on its nuclear arsenal, because that will only cause more harm to regional stability and drawharsher sanctions against the DPRK. The only viable option left for the DPRK is to re-engage in the Six-Party Talks, abandon its nuclear program for good and cooperate with the international community.
The author is an associate researcher at the Center for Northeast Asian Studies in Jilin province.