China’s role indispensable in resolving North Korea nuclear crisis

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/14 20:43:40

North Korea has declared that it would hold a ceremony for dismantling the Punggye-ri nuclear test site between May 23 and 25 and would invite foreign journalists to the event. The dismantling will involve destroying all tunnels using explosives and the removal of observation facilities, research buildings and security posts.

The announcement was welcomed by Washington. US President Donald Trump called it "a very smart and gracious gesture!" tweeting an unusual "Thank you." Most international opinion was also positive.

The Punggye-ri nuclear test site, located in the north of the country, is only about 100 kilometers from the Chinese border and poses nuclear pollution risk to Northeast China. Abandoning it would bring huge benefits to the region and we hope the ongoing denuclearization and the process of rapprochement among the parties will be irreversible.

Just a few days ago, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited North Korea and brought back with him three Americans who were detained in North Korea for more than a year. It was Pompeo's second visit to Pyongyang. The two countries are interacting before the Trump-Kim summit and North Korea's decision to destroy the nuclear test site could hint at Washington and Pyongyang's deepening consensus over reconciliation.

However, people are still worried. Pyongyang has paid a big price to obtain nuclear weapons and will it abandon them if the US cannot fully agree to its requests? Washington has indicated that it will not respond if North Korea doesn't abandon its nuclear program first. Will Washington adopt a more flexible attitude?

When the US and North Korea are moving toward the summit, they need to push forward and should make efforts to prevent a relapse. It is worth noting that in 1994, the US and North Korea signed an agreed framework that froze Pyongyang's nuclear program and helped the country economically. In 2002, then US President George W. Bush administration's 2002 National Security Strategy listed North Korea as a "rogue" regime and stopped aid. An outraged Pyongyang restarted nuclear tests. After the Six-Party Talks, North Korea blew up the cooling tower at Yongbyon nuclear complex but the denuclearization process that saw ups and downs did not succeed.

Prospects of easing tensions on the peninsula this time seem stronger than they have at any time in the past, the reason being that the Workers Party of Korea decided to switch its focus to economic development. Currently, relations between the two Koreas have improved and international public opinion has high hopes of lasting peace on the peninsula. When resolution of the North Korea nuclear crisis is at a critical juncture, it's of particular significance to hold the US-North Korea summit. 

Attempts at resolving the Korean nuclear standoff have failed earlier, but it should not be a ruse for Washington hesitation. When Pyongyang pledges to stop nuclear tests and launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles and announces the dismantling of a nuclear test site, the US must step up bilateral interaction.

In theory, the US has definite advantage over North Korea. Therefore, it is Pyongyang, not Washington, which has more to fear a change in the denuclearization plan. Derailing of the denuclearization process in the past cannot be only Pyongyang's fault as the US used to allege. Is it only Teheran's fault that the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal?

Unlike before, China has become stronger. Without China's support, the United Nations' framework on resolving the peninsula issue cannot work. In the absence of Chinese support, North Korea's security will become weaker and the US will get lost in dealing with the issue. China is the power which can really provide support in resolving the issue and it should take the initiative to do so.

This is an editorial of Global Times.


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