Bid to ease sanctions seeks relief for N.Korea

By Da Zhigang Source:Global Times Published: 2019/12/29 20:28:21

Photo: IC


After US President Donald Trump said on December 8 that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un risks losing "everything" if Kim resumes hostility, China and Russia on December 17 proposed the UN Security Council lift some sanctions on Pyongyang. 

It is in this context that China and Russia jointly proposed a solution in time to help ease tensions between North Korea and the US. Moscow also said the proposal is aimed at encouraging talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

The environment for possible US-North Korea negotiations is not like that in 2017 when the two countries had a direct tiff. However, the two countries are now testing each other's bottom line, which may add to the instability of the situation. 

For example, Trump called Kim a "rocket man" again on December 3 and North Korea has warned that it will take a "new path" next year if the US cannot offer a plan satisfactory to both sides. Thus, it is very important that China and Russia have proposed to lift some sanctions on North Korea this time.

First, China and Russia are trying their best to ease the war of words between the US and North Korea and to stop the situation from worsening to a 2017-like standoff. 

China and Russia want to make the Korean Peninsula's peace and stability mechanism continue to develop in a good direction. The peace of Northeast Asia is very important to China and Russia, and the proposal reflects the two countries' striving to maintain strategic stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the world.

Second, the proposal shows that China and Russia fully respect North Korea's reasonable demands. They proposed to lift some of the sanctions, instead of all. 

Besides, the two countries made the proposal after North Korea suspended its nuclear and missile tests and scrapped its nuclear test site. Pyongyang's efforts should be encouraged and reciprocated. 

The current UN sanctions have had a certain negative impact on people's lives in North Korea. In 2018, North Korea suspended its nuclear tests, planned to turn its focus to development, tried to integrate into multilateral cooperation and developed diplomacy with major powers. 

However, under UN sanctions, North Korea could not really find a path to reach these goals. To really promote North Korea's economic transformation and help the country integrate into Northeast Asia cooperation, we must fully respect Pyongyang's reasonable demands.

Besides, have the UN sanctions been effective? No. North Korea's nuclear weapons still developed, and the country is now almost satisfied with its ability of deterrence and precision strike capabilities against the US. This being the case, China and Russia's proposal benefits the peace and stability of the peninsula and is also in line with the two countries' own development.

This also shows that the time has come for all sides concerned to cooperate and resolve the peninsula issue. Indeed, the US and North Korea are the main parties to the negotiation. But China and Russia called for a resumption of the Six-Party Talks, which means that other stakeholders should not stay out of action.

North Korea has carried out 13 rounds of short- or medium-range launches since May. Pyongyang wanted to add pressure on Washington and hoped the White House can offer a practical solution by the end of 2019. However, the US believes that North Korea is still being provocative and trying to improve its ability of precision strike capabilities against the US.

China and Russia believe that sanctions do not work. This has already been proved by history and facts, and we need a more effective way to solve the dilemma of denuclearization. 

However, in the US cold-war mind-set, UN sanctions are the only effective way to restrain North Korea and the only bargaining chip to maintain so-called moderate tension on the peninsula. The US believes that it will pay more military and geopolitical costs to restrain the peninsula if there are no sanctions.

Therefore, the UN Security Council will not immediately lift sanctions on North Korea. Considering the US right to a veto in the UN, US domestic public opinion, the game of US partisan politics and the attitude of Washington's allies, it may be hard to finally lift sanctions on North Korea. 

However, China and Russia still made a proposal, which won the attention of the international community on the peaceful settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue. 

It also helps people focus on North Korea's efforts in denuclearization and makes them hope that the situation on the peninsula can be brought under control in the future.

The author is director and research fellow of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences and chief expert at the Northeast Asian Strategic Studies Institute.


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