January 28, 2016 13:27
The foreign ministers of the U.S. and China failed to reach agreement on Wednesday on how to deal with North Korea after its recent nuclear test.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington and Beijing agreed on the "need for a UN resolution" to impose sanctions but failed to provide details. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi claimed that sanctions against the North should not be the final goal and insisted China continues to stand behind the policy of engaging Pyongyang in dialogue.
This makes it quite clear that China will not tighten the noose around North Korea's neck by limiting trade to the point where it really hurts.
North Korea has responded to each and every UN sanction by conducting a nuclear or missile test. It has vowed never to give up its nuclear ambitions, and there is no chance that it will buckle under further sanctions. Now that China has more or less promised to sit on its hands, Pyongyang will push ahead full steam in developing a nuclear warhead small enough to mount on a missile and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Once it develops these weapons, the military balance on the Peninsula will tilt dangerously. Even if the South bolsters its missile defenses with the aid of the U.S., such defense systems will only offer us brief psychological solace while the country remains in the crosshairs of the North's weapons of mass destruction. Using conventional weapons to counter such a threat is ludicrous.
The U.S. has passed the buck for taming North Korea to China, and China is doing nothing. Seoul now faces a real need for public discussion of the development of its own nuclear weapons.
If the public wants the country to arm itself with nuclear weapons, the government will simply have to scrap a joint declaration from 1991 to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and initiate talks with the U.S. to obtain the right to enrich uranium and reprocess its own spent nuclear fuel rods.
It will require delicate handling. If Seoul is too aggressive in pushing ahead with its own nuclear program, it could alienate the U.S. and face international sanctions. This would be devastating for an export-dependent country. And if it tries to obtain the technology on its own, its efforts could be thwarted by the superpowers, which will monitor every move.
But Seoul can no longer sit idly by as the six-party talks lead to no results and Washington and Beijing are busy blaming each other for their diplomatic failures.
North Korea has invaded this country in the past and has not hesitated to provoke Seoul repeatedly since the ceasefire agreement was signed in 1953. If it obtains nuclear weapons, the South faces a bleak fate.
Would China come to the rescue if the North launched a nuclear attack against South Korea? Would the U.S. step in to protect Seoul? Judging by Washington's inaction in the military crises in the Ukraine and Syria, it would probably respond only after Seoul has been turned into a pile of smoldering ashes.
The biggest victim of North Korea's nuclear weapons program is not China, Japan or the U.S., but the people of South Korea. They can no longer sit idly by and continue to ignore the options they have to deal with this threat.
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