U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday agreed on separate sanctions against North Korea. Obama told reporters the two agreed to pursue "strong measures" to respond to North Korea’s nuclear test. Abe said he had run out of patience with Pyongyang.
But when the foreign ministers of China and Russia met on Friday, they said that although North Korea deserves to be punished by the UN Security Council for its nuclear test, the present situation on the Korean Peninsula must not be used as an excuse for an arms race or to justify foreign military intervention in the region.
Beijing and Moscow have begun to talk about the revival of long-suspended six-party nuclear talks rather than discussing stronger measures and tougher sanctions against the North.
The contrasting results of the two meetings clearly show the difference in views between the major powers. Japan is trying to use North Korea’s nuclear test as an excuse to amend its pacifist constitution and to rally the public around rearmament, while the U.S. aims to keep China in check and bolster its alliance with Japan. And China and Russia are becoming ever more sensitive to the prospect of a shift in the balance of power in East Asia.
If they fail to narrow their differences in dealing with the North Korean nuclear crisis, the six-party talks would, if revived, simply buy the North more time to bolster its nuclear arsenal. This would leave Seoul with no other option but to seek independent military and other measures besides international cooperation to deal with the threat. It should make this absolutely clear to the four countries.
The president of South Korea is mandated by the Constitution to protect the nation and the public. President Park Geun-hye needs to realize that the key to resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis is to find a way of getting China to act and deepen dialogue channels with Beijing.
That will also help boost U.S.-South Korea ties. The new administration must come up with a new strategy under the premise that closer cooperation with the U.S. and China are two sides of the same coin.