North Korean nuclear crisis free-fall must be halted

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/12/13 16:03:40

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday said the US is ready to talk with North Korea without preconditions.

Previously the White House maintained that it would not negotiate with the North until it shows clear intent to renounce nuclear programs. At the Atlantic Council in Washington, Tillerson talked of this new development: "We've said from the diplomatic side, we're ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk." These remarks mark a shift in the US policy toward Pyongyang. He also said, "It's not realistic to say we are only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program."

Has Washington really made such a major change in attitude to engage with Pyongyang? This might be no more than a demonstration of the attitude of Tillerson and the Department of State. Perhaps he did not work it out with US President Donald Trump. There are different interpretations, and even analysis that the Department of State and the Department of Defense are "playing good cop, bad cop." Tillerson's call for talks does not affect Washington's military plan for North Korea.

Recently, the international community has ramped up efforts on the North Korean nuclear issue. Russia has also played a positive role in promoting talks. The US-South Korea military drills are coming close to actual combat. The effort in prompting negotiations has been offset by quasi-military actions. Though the US has talked about the policy of the "four nos" - no regime change, regime collapse, accelerated reunification or military deployment north of the 38th parallel that divides the Korean Peninsula, it has also sent sterner warnings to North Korea and conducted more frequent military maneuvers.

At this critical moment, preventing the Korean Peninsula from free-falling into a maelstrom is most urgent. Now, if we can precipitate negotiations and get beyond the threat of military confrontation, the conundrum is likely to turn out right.

Of course, there are important principles that need to be highlighted, about which international opinion should have no doubts.

The international community will not give up the objective that North Korea must abandon its nuclear programs. Neither China, Russia nor the US will give up this principle to gain temporary peace on the peninsula.

No country in Northeast Asia will accept a full-blown war intended to end Pyongyang's nuclear development, as waging a war is a clumsy option.

Despite the looming nuclear crisis, the geopolitical game among the world's major powers will not die out, but they will no longer be obsessed with it. Cooperation is the most important thing for now.

Given the different views on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, we want to lay out the various opinions on it.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula concerns China's long-term interests. The Beijing-Pyongyang friendship is where China's geopolitical interests lie. It is hard to strike a balance between these, but China has made the utmost efforts.

In addition, China is a large country that borders North Korea and it has an indelible influence upon the Korean Peninsula, in which we should be fully confident. The rhetoric that North Korea might become a US-supported nuclear state in animosity to China is nonsense, which should in no way become the starting point of some Chinese analysis.

The Chinese People's Volunteer Army withdrew from North Korea in 1958; the military representatives bid farewell to Panmunjom in 1994; China established diplomatic ties with South Korea amid the North's objections; we have fully supported UN sanctions. This has all made it impossible for Beijing to have an influence on Pyongyang as powerful as that of Washington on Seoul. Therefore, some Chinese should not follow Western public opinion in adopting the wrong perception that "China should and can control North Korea."

The future months are key for whether the Korean Peninsula will slide into a military showdown or return to the negotiating table. It's beyond doubt that China will go all out to promote talks, but will also make plans in case the worst-case scenario occurs.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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