Peninsula calls for peaceful talks
Updated: 2013-03-21 07:12
By Hu Mingyuan (China Daily)
A new video widely believed to be released on Monday by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea shows images of what appears to be an imagined missile attack on White House. The video appears to send a message that the Korean Peninsula has been pushed to the brink of war.
The third nuclear test conducted by the DPRK in February and its threat to nullify the Korean Armistice Agreement, along with the unanimous UN Security Council resolution on March 7 to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang have intensified tensions on the peninsula.
The Security Council resolution says the DPRK should desist from conducting further nuclear tests, abandon its nuclear weapons program and abide by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It also says that the issue should be resolved peacefully through diplomatic and political channels, and the Six-Party Talks should be resumed.
But on March 11, the Republic of Korea and the United States began "Exercise Key Resolve", a joint military drill, despite DPRK's threat to nullify the armistice agreement that halted the Korean War (1950-53).
The DPRK, in response, severed an inter-Korean communication hotline, halted a meeting of its delegates at the border village of Panmunjom, declared the armistice agreement invalid and warned of stronger countermeasures against the latest US-ROK drill and UN sanctions.
Although the DPRK has threatened the US with a preemptive nuclear strike, actually it is far from being able to target nuclear missiles at the United States. Its true intention is to pressure Washington into holding bilateral talks, sign a Korean Peninsula peace agreement and normalize relations. Pyongyang also wants to sound out the ROK and test its capability to respond. Therefore, despite threatening to take severe countermeasures against the UN resolution and US-ROK military drill, the DPRK is not expected to do anything that would trigger an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula.
The DPRK and the ROK may have added fire to their rhetoric but both are afraid of another war breaking out on the Peninsula. They are, however, engaged in a psychological war while fortifying their defense against each other and strengthening their counterattack capability just in case the matter spirals out of control.
The psychological war is the first confrontation between DPRK leader Kim Jong-un and ROK President Park Geun-hye. Kim Jong-un wants to consolidate his authority in the DPRK while Park Geun-hye has made safeguarding ROK's national security one of her most important tasks.
Washington, on its part, has said Pyongyang's threat will only isolate it further, and declared that the US was "fully capable" of defending itself against any DPRK missile attack. Speaking on the US policy in the Asia-Pacific region at the Asia Society in New York on March 11, National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon said Washington's policy toward Pyongyang rests on four key principles: close and expanded cooperation with Japan and the ROK, refusal to reward DPRK's belligerence, commitment to defend "our homeland and (that of) our allies" and continuing to encourage the DPRK to choose a better path.
So it seems that the Barack Obama administration will continue its "strategic policy" of dealing with the DPRK with patience and not taking the initiative to improve bilateral relations. Also, the US' response to the DPRK's military provocations is likely to be harsher and it could tighten sanctions against the Foreign Trade Bank of DPRK to thwart Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.
Despite the current exchange of rhetoric between the US and the DPRK, they are not likely to engage in a full-scale war.
The DPRK's satellite launch and the third nuclear test have created a vicious circle of "provocations and sanctions". The lack of strategic mutual trust among different sides is at the root of the tension on the Peninsula. It is also the reason why unexpected events have cropped up to nullify some countries' efforts to defuse the tension and restore permanent peace on the Peninsula.
The Korean Peninsula issue is entering a new crisis period. But since maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia is in line with the common interests of the international community, all relevant parties should avoid making moves that could escalate the tension further. They should also help resume the Six-Party Talks to realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula peacefully.
Resorting to force or threatening to use force will not resolve the issue; it will only aggravate the situation further. Dialogue and consultation are the only effective way of resolving the crisis. The DPRK, the US and the ROK should refrain from issuing any more provocative statements and make serious efforts to build political mutual trust to put the Peninsula back on the track of peaceful negotiations.
The author is an associate researcher at the Center for Northeast Asian Studies, a research institute in Jilin province.