Opin­ion: A no-win sit­u­a­tion for US in North Korean cri­sis

Don­ald Trump’s op­tions on North Korea are lim­ited, as it is Kim Jong Un who is calling the shots with his nu­clear and mis­sile tests.The US can’t rely on China and must look for a neu­tral me­di­a­tor, says Martin Fritz

The Daily News Egypt - - Commentary -

DW—North Korea’s hy­dro­gen bomb test on Sun­day should be a se­ri­ous mat­ter for the US.A sin­gle such bomb, if used in an at­tack, could wipe out a city like New York. A hy­dro­gen bomb ex­plo­sion in the air above Sil­i­con Val­ley could com­pletely paral­yse the func­tion­ing of US tech­no­log­i­cal giants like Ap­ple, Face­book, and Google. And Py­ongyang will soon have the means to carry out such at­tacks.

The US has so far failed to put a halt to North Korea’s nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grams. It’s been 11 years since the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil im­posed sanc­tions on North Korea after the com­mu­nist coun­try con­ducted its first nu­clear test. Since then, the reclu­sive regime in Py­ongyang has been en­hanc­ing its nu­clear strike ca­pa­bil­i­ties. It is ob­vi­ous from Wash­ing­ton’s re­cent re­ac­tions to the North’s nu­clear and mis­sile tests that it did not ex­pect this out­come and is to­tally un­pre­pared to deal with the sit­u­a­tion.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has been threat­en­ing the regime in North Korea. But nei­ther con­ven­tional nor a nu­clear strike is a re­al­is­tic op­tion for Wash­ing­ton. South Korea and Ja­pan, the US al­lies in the re­gion, would not ap­prove of it, for they would be the im­me­di­ate vic­tims of any re­tal­ia­tory strikes. And if the US chooses to build pres­sure through more sanc­tions on the North and wait for their im­pact, Py­ongyang will gain more time to per­fect its mis­siles.

North Korea wants to ne­go­ti­ate a peace treaty with a guar­an­tee that sanc­tions will be lifted. But that is not all; the North wants to be rec­og­nized as a nu­clear state by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. North Korean of­fi­cials cite the ex­am­ple of Pak­istan, which has been ac­cepted as a nu­clear state by the US. So for ne­go­ti­a­tions with the North, the US would have to give up its de­mand for a nu­clear-free Korean Penin­sula. It could pos­si­bly ne­go­ti­ate a re­stric­tion on the nu­clear arse­nal, but noth­ing more than that. But that would not be ac­cept­able to Seoul and Tokyo.

The “dou­ble game” of China is also frus­trat­ing for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. The US is de­pen­dent on Bei­jing to im­ple­ment UN sanc­tions against North Korea. But Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping is pur­su­ing his own goals.The pro­posed oil em­bargo on North Korea will not be en­dorsed by China. Se­condly, Bei­jing wants to weaken Wash­ing­ton’s in­flu­ence in East Asia. Py­ongyang’s nu­clear and mis­sile pro­gramme is prov­ing to be quite use­ful for Bei­jing to counter the US al­liance with South Korea and Ja­pan.

Rus­sia, by any means, is not a neu­tral player in the Korean con­flict ei­ther. The per­cep­tion that Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin wants to hu­mil­i­ate the US can­not be brushed aside. The rapid progress of North Korea’s mis­sile tech­nol­ogy raises sus­pi­cions about Rus­sian help even though there is no hard ev­i­dence for that. In any case, the changed power bal­ance in the Far East points to Rus­sia’s im­por­tance in the re­gion. Moscow’s in­sis­tence on talks rather than fur­ther sanc­tions fits this role.

You can look at it from any an­gle, but the US is the main loser in the cur­rent Korean con­flict. Pres­i­den­tTrump’s tweets about North Korea ex­pose this fact.

Wash­ing­ton should look for a neu­tral me­di­a­tor to re­solve the con­flict. It could be Swe­den or Ger­many, for in­stance. How­ever, the mea­sure would re­quire a high de­gree of ma­tu­rity in Wash­ing­ton, some­thing which has been miss­ing all this while.

FRITZ

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