In­stead of hurl­ing threats, US and DPRK should talk

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

First it was United States Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son stat­ing Wash­ing­ton’s will­ing­ness to talk with Py­ongyang, if the lat­ter halts its mis­sile stunts. Then US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Tues­day warned the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of Korea against mak­ing “any more threats” to his coun­try, which he promised “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”. Nei­ther seems to have worked, though. Py­ongyang’s at­ti­tude, which Tiller­son deems crit­i­cal to the US en­gag­ing in di­a­logue, re­mains de­fi­ant.

Re­spond­ing to Tiller­son’s of­fer, DPRK For­eign Min­is­ter Ri Yongho said at the ASEAN For­eign Min­is­ters’ Meet­ing in Manila that his coun­try “un­der no cir­cum­stances” will put its nu­clear weapons or bal­lis­tic mis­siles on the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble. And on Wed­nes­day, the Korean Peo­ple’s Army an­nounced it is “care­fully ex­am­in­ing” an op­er­a­tional plan for “en­velop­ing fire” around the US mil­i­tary bases at Guam with its newly-ac­quired mis­sile ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The lat­est round of saber-rat­tling be­tween Py­ongyang and Wash­ing­ton is par­tic­u­larly omi­nous be­cause, al­though both par­ties sent “mixed mes­sages” and hinted at a de­gree of flex­i­bil­ity, both set im­pos­si­ble pre­con­di­tions.

So while it is good that nei­ther has slammed the door shut on po­ten­tial talks, it looks in­creas­ingly like a ploy to sab­o­tage that prospect.

Py­ongyang has jus­ti­fied its plan for mis­sile strikes on Guam with Wash­ing­ton’s “reck­less mil­i­tary provo­ca­tion”, while the lat­ter has em­ployed the same pre­text for re­fus­ing di­a­logue. Over time, this mu­tual fin­ger-point­ing has pulled both into a spi­ral of es­ca­lat­ing dis­trust and hos­til­ity, which is the big­gest ob­sta­cle to re­solv­ing the cri­sis.

The US’ ap­proach to the stand­off has been coun­ter­pro­duc­tive be­cause it has sim­ply es­ca­lated the threat from Py­ongyang’s nu­clear/mis­sile pro­grams.

While some of Py­ongyang’s claims of tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs no doubt need to be taken with a grain of salt, it has been mak­ing steady progress de­spite the strict in­ter­na­tional scru­tiny and sanc­tions.

And now, Py­ongyang has in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles and re­port­edly a minia­tur­ized nu­clear war­head. From this point on, the threat­en­ing rhetoric from Py­ongyang can­not be taken lightly.

United Na­tions Res­o­lu­tion 2371, which au­tho­rizes ad­di­tional, po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing sanc­tions against the DPRK’s mil­i­tary ad­ven­tures, is a timely re­sponse, and it is widely an­tic­i­pated they will fi­nally bite. But sanc­tions alone may not eas­ily bring Py­ongyang to its senses and the Bei­jing-pro­posed “dual sus­pen­sion” ap­proach, a freeze on the DPRK’s nu­clear and bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests in ex­change for a ces­sa­tion of the large-scale mil­i­tary drills con­ducted by the US and the Re­pub­lic of Korea, fair as it is, needs a start­ing point.

While mak­ing sure the UN sanc­tions are fully, hon­estly im­ple­mented, stake­hold­ers must also make mean­ing­ful en­deav­ors to per­suade the US and the DPRK to take a step back from the brink.

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