July 11, 2017 13:03
In the aftermath of North Korea's latest ballistic missile test last week, President Moon Jae-in said South Korea "faces the worst crisis since the Korean War," while U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley referred to the situation as "hugely dangerous."
On Tuesday the chief South Korean, U.S. and Japanese nuclear negotiators meet in Singapore. The most urgent task before them is to achieve a complete ban of crude oil supply to North Korea in a new UN Security Council resolution.
The only way to get Kim Jong-un to budge is to make him realize that he could end up losing control of North Korea if he insists on holding on to his nuclear weapons. And at present the only diplomatic leverage available to the international community is to cut off crude oil supplies, which are the lifeline of North Korea's moribund economy.
It will not grind to a halt even if China shuts off the spigot immediately. The North has oil reserves and receives crude supplies from Russia as well. But Kim will feel the pressure like never before. In early 2003, China cut off crude supplies to North Korea for three days, and it immediately produced results. China has apparently done it several more times whenever the two allies collided on the diplomatic front.
For now, North Korea believes that China will stand by it. All its reckless provocations come from this belief. Beijing knows this too but continues with its wishy-washy policies because it needs North Korea as a buffer state and wants to avoid regime collapse in Pyongyang. But if North Korea's nuclear gamble pays off, everything will change. South Korea and Japan will not sit idly by, and Taiwan could end up teaming up with Seoul and Tokyo.
Of course China will not easily change its mind, but the time is approaching when North Korea's nuclear weapons will start harming China's interests. South Korea, the U.S. and Japan must persist in trying to persuade China of this truth.
At the same time, South Korea needs to do some serious thinking about creating its own nuclear deterrent, and the U.S. will have to reconsider its nuclear policy for its allies. Without these fundamental changes, the North's provocations will never stop.
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