North Korea should seize chance to address security concerns

By Wang Xiaobo Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/14 19:58:39

The US presidential election ended with the victory of Donald Trump. This result will not only affect the trajectory of relations between Northeast Asian countries, but will also determine how the nuclear issue in North Korea evolves.

The primary task of Trump is to revive the US domestic economy, a task on which the US public has pinned much hope. Trump does not advocate a strong presence in the Asia-Pacific and will not intervene in other countries' domestic affairs like other US leaders. He also promised to urge US allies such as Japan and South Korea to undertake the cost of their security ties. All this will help the US reduce its military intervention and the cost of military expenditure in Northeast Asia.

To serve his domestic goals, Trump urgently needs a favorable international order. In his election campaign, he praised North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for his firm hand, but called him a "bad dude." Trump once said he would be willing to speak with Kim, but he also said he would stop a nuclear North Korea and reconstruct his alliance with South Korea. His pompousness, caprice, lack of political experience and businessman-like thinking make the North Korean nuclear situation even more uncertain.

North Korea conducted nuclear tests twice this year and has shown an arrogant attitude toward the US and South Korea as well as the international community. Pyongyang insists on the byungjin (parallel development) policy of the economy and nuclear weapons and its ownership of nuclear weapons has become a fixed reality. This has given outgoing President Barack Obama an excuse to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system in South Korea and further split the Korean Peninsula. Meanwhile, this will be an unavoidable topic for Trump.

The international community acknowledges that the US is key to solving Pyongyang's nuclear issue. The new administration of Trump must realize that the US itself cannot undertake everything. It should adopt a multilateral approach to solving discrepancies via dialogue or negotiations. Deterrence and force are the last option to address the nuclear issue. Trump should adjust the rigid "strategic endurance" policy of the Obama administration.

North Korea should also be clear that its stubbornness will get both itself and regional countries in trouble. It can seize the opportunity of the leadership change in the White House to address its security concerns. Although its startling moves and neglect of rules to seek a sense of security have put the other Northeast Asian countries in awe, nuclear diplomacy is not the best way to achieve its goals.

Pyongyang needs to respond positively to the adjustment of US policies. Any provocative moves will deepen the worries of the international community and add to the unpredictability of Pyongyang's nuclear stance.

China, as a responsible major power, should keep cool-headed. It should be ready for close coordination with the Trump government and for any possible friction. Both Beijing and Washington want to prevent Pyongyang from owning nuclear weapons. Beijing should keep a watchful eye on the diplomatic practice of the Trump administration in handling Pyongyang's nuclear issue.

China also needs to make its bottom line clear and urge North Korea to stop any moves that could trigger tensions in the peninsula. Pyongyang should never make troubles at China's doorstep. China can employ both kindness and severity toward Pyongyang. This is important for China to fulfill its responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and show its value for traditional China-North Korea friendship and the well being of the peninsula and the entire Northeast Asia.

The North Korean nuclear situation is like a ticking clock. It tests the wisdom of Trump, North Korean leaders and China to find an effective way to solve the thorny issue.

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


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