Talks can help ease Py­ongyang’s woes

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

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.

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