US can’t rein in DPRK by using force

China Daily European Weekly - - Comment - By MA WEIYING The au­thor is an as­so­ciate re­searcher at the Cen­ter for North­east Asian Stud­ies in Jilin prov­ince.

Wash­ing­ton would do much bet­ter to heed Bei­jing’s dual-sus­pen­sion pro­posal and the dual-track ap­proach

The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity kept a close eye on the Korean Penin­sula sit­u­a­tion as Repub­lic of Korea Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in made a four-day state visit to China, es­pe­cially be­cause Py­ongyang’s Korean Cen­tral News Agency termed the just­con­cluded US-ROK mil­i­tary drill a “pro­jected war re­hearsal” that will push the al­ready acute sit­u­a­tion on the penin­sula to “the brink of nu­clear war”.

Moon, who held talks with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping on Dec 14, told China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion in an in­ter­view be­fore em­bark­ing on the visit that the goal of his visit was to nor­mal­ize re­la­tions with China fol­low­ing the con­tro­versy over de­ploy­ment of the Ter­mi­nal High Al­ti­tude Area De­fense anti-mis­sile sys­tem in the ROK.

Aside from bi­lat­eral re­la­tions, the two sides also dis­cussed ways to re­solve the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea’s nu­clear is­sue. The use of terms such as “pro­jected war re­hearsal” and “the brink of nu­clear war” by the DPRK’s news agency and the test­ing of a new type of in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile by Py­ongyang on Nov 29, which it claimed could hit the United States main­land, have made the stake­hold­ers in North­east Asia more anx­ious.

Given that Py­ongyang tested the ICBM de­spite the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity tight­en­ing eco­nomic sanc­tions af­ter it con­ducted the sixth nu­clear test in Septem­ber, it seems that United Na­tions Res­o­lu­tion 2375 — which was ex­pected to par­a­lyze the coun­try’s oil im­ports and tex­tile and marine prod­uct ex­ports — as well as the lat­est uni­lat­eral sanc­tions by Wash­ing­ton and Seoul are yet to make a dif­fer­ence to the DPRK.

While the eco­nomic sanc­tions are poised to reach their limit — China-DPRK trade fell to an eight-month low in Oc­to­ber — Py­ongyang has shown lit­tle sign of tak­ing a step back. And the de­ci­sion of the ad­min­is­tra­tion of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to put the DPRK back on the list of “state spon­sors” of ter­ror­ism risks stymieing the progress made to­ward de­nu­cle­ariz­ing the Korean Penin­sula.

This dilemma high­lights the lack of a sense of se­cu­rity in Py­ongyang. DPRK leader Kim Jongun, in­stead of buckling un­der the pres­sure of es­ca­lat­ing sanc­tions over the past six years, is in­vest­ing more re­sources to al­le­vi­ate the dam­age caused by in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions, by open­ing new fac­to­ries and urg­ing in­creased pro­duc­tion.

There is lit­tle room left for fur­ther tight­en­ing of sanc­tions, in­ter­na­tional or uni­lat­eral, against the DPRK, be­cause that would put the liveli­hoods of its peo­ple at risk and thus vi­o­late the ba­sic prin­ci­ple of hu­man rights. And since the uni­lat­eral sanc­tions im­posed by Wash­ing­ton and Seoul on Py­ongyang are in­trin­si­cally based on their re­spec­tive do­mes­tic laws, the US has no le­gal grounds to al­lege that Chi­nese en­ter­prises have “covert” links with Py­ongyang.

Far from shut­ting down its nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties, the DPRK has time and again con­ducted nu­clear and mis­sile tests, and now claims its mis­siles can hit the US main­land. Be­sides, given the des­per­ate state that the DPRK is now in, it could go from one ex­treme to an­other if it faces a pre­emp­tive at­tack by the US.

Let us hope UN Un­der­sec­re­tary Gen­eral Jef­frey Felt­man’s re­cent talks with DPRK of­fi­cials will be able to break the dead­lock and bring Py­ongyang back to the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble so that peace can be re­stored on the penin­sula.

More­over, while gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion on an­other pos­si­ble nu­clear test by Py­ongyang, and how far it has pro­gressed in ICBM re­search, Wash­ing­ton would do bet­ter to heed Bei­jing’s dual-sus­pen­sion pro­posal and the dual-track ap­proach. Dual-sus­pen­sion means the US and the ROK sus­pend­ing their ma­jor mil­i­tary drills in re­turn for the DPRK sus­pend­ing its nu­clear pro­gram, and dual-track means mak­ing con­certed ef­forts to si­mul­ta­ne­ously move for­ward the process of de­nu­cle­ariza­tion and es­tab­lish­ment of a peace­ful mech­a­nism, with both aimed at eas­ing ten­sions on the penin­sula.


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