More Determination Needed To Handle Pyongyang’s Nuclear Ambitions

More Determination Needed To Handle Pyongyang’s Nuclear Ambitions

By Wang Xiaobo Source:Global Times Published: 2015-1-13 23:48:02

North Korea on Friday offered to suspend nuclear tests if the US cancels its annual military drills with South Korea. But the US rejected the suggestion, saying the nuclear tests and military exercises were separate issues. It’s reported Tuesday that the US and South Korea plan to carry out a large-scale joint military exercise in early March.

Pyongyang’s nuclear ambition has been a long-standing issue for regional stakeholders. In the foreseeable future, security in the Korean Peninsula will continue to be a swinging pendulum. It depends on whether North Korea will take a big step toward enhancing its nuclear activities. After witnessing its third nuclear tests, more people believe nuclear weapons are a fixed goal of Pyongyang. If it carries out more nuclear tests, the security of the Korean Peninsula and even that of the whole of Northeast Asia will face tough challenges. If a new nuclear crisis comes, a conflict between the US and North Korea is likely to occur. It will prove a disaster for the region.

To consolidate the leadership of Kim Jong-un, maintain political stability and carry out the grand strategy of developing both nuclear weapons and the economy, North Korea is sure to attach importance to economic development.

Although the country has a highly centralized economic and political system, it is not as vulnerable as the outside world imagines.

The US sanctions have not overthrown Pyongyang’s regime. Instead, they have enabled Pyongyang to acquire the capability of resisting pressures and risks. Observers are more concerned that Kim will use a crisis to show his strength.

Kim has withstood international pressures and made a good start in the years since he inherited power in 2011. His handling of Jang Sung-taek made the world see his iron fist as well as his ability to safeguard the North Korean regime and maintain political stability. Attention was shifted to whether the Kim leadership can adjust policies and focus on economic development to improve the livelihood of the North Korean people.

But in North Korea which attaches the same importance to the economy and nuclear weapons, how to carry out economic activities under the military-first doctrine tests the wisdom of the leadership. The international community is reluctant to accept this.

It seems that the international community has grown increasingly helpless at dealing with Pyongyang’s moves. In the face of Pyongyang’s three nuclear tests, the US only strengthened military cooperation with South Korea and Japan, gave verbal warnings and imposed sanctions, but didn’t take any real measures that could seriously weaken the North’s attempt to possess nuclear weapons.

This makes Pyongyang believe its acquisition of nuclear weapons has no conflict with the national interests of the US, but even tallies with the US interests, since it has become an excuse for the US to meddle into Northeast Asian affairs.

The current international nuclear order exerts limited restraint over North Korea’s nuclear issue. Out of the demands of domestic politics, North Korea can go ahead with a new test regardless of concerns from the international community. It stated that the military exercises in the South intensify the situation in the peninsula and brew a potential nuclear war for the Korean people, and the US should change its hostile policy toward Pyongyang.

As North Korea projects responsibility for its nuclear activities on the US and the international community, new military exercises between the US and South Korea or the US and Japan may become an excuse for its fourth nuclear test. If the international community does not have the determination to solve Pyongyang’s nuclear issue, it can only bear the risks together with it.

The author is a professor at the College of Political Science and Public Management, Yanbian University.

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