NK’s nuclear threat requires more attention
Published: Feb 15, 2017 08:28 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The sudden death of Kim Jong-nam, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia on Monday has triggered widespread speculations on the motives behind his sudden death and its impact on North Korean politics. Observers are particularly concerned about how far Pyongyang's nuclear development will go.

It is not surprising that mysteries like this occur in North Korea, a closed country with opaque political operations. Kim Jong-nam is a family member of Pyongyang's top leader and earlier rumors said that he had been banished from the country. His death is expected to generate more theories in the long term.

If his death is an assassination, what is the political motive behind it? Does it have anything to do with the current political landscape in North Korea? Analysts will shed light on this issue.

But we may neglect another important factor that affects the security of China, especially Northeast China - North Korea's nuclear development, which requires our prudence.

On Sunday, North Korea launched a Pukguksong-2 ballistic missile and released a video of it online. With reference to information from South Korea's intelligence department and Google's satellite map, huanqiu.com looked into the characteristics of the topography and architectures and fixed the location of the launch at 7 kilometers away from the city of Kusong in North Korea, and just about 70 kilometers away from border town of Dandong, China.

Upon closer look, there are just over 50 kilometers between the launch base and the Shuifeng Reservoir near the Yalu River. The reservoir is owned by both China and North Korea and China has several power generation facilities there.

The nuclear facilities in Yongbyon are only 104 kilometers away from the Chinese border. All these show that North Korea's nuclear development is likely to be detrimental to China.

Analysts in the US, Japan and South Korea have constantly said that only China can solve North Korea's nuclear issue. They created an impression that China can benefit from the nuclear development. However, China can also be hijacked by the issue.

North Korea's nuclear facilities and missile bases are located near China's border. Once the situation in the Korean Peninsula spirals out of control, the facilities will be primary targets or the final fortress of North Korea's defense. Either way, the effects on China will be severe.

As North Korea's nuclear issue becomes more complicated, the US, Japan and South Korea are eyeing for a regime change in the country and are prone to solve the issue with much tougher means. Hard-line US officials and experts are talking about the regime change as a viable option for US President Donald Trump in coping with the nuclear issue.

In South Korea, people are becoming less enthusiastic for a peaceful solution to the issue. Not many people place their hope on the Sunshine Policy to reset the split between the North and the South.

Against this backdrop, the death of Kim Jong-nam undoubtedly makes North Korean politics more complex. People in the US, Japan and South Korea will more likely opt for hard-line approaches, which will trigger nuclear security problems.

It is hard for us to know what is going on in North Korea. It is also difficult to predict how the death of Kim Jong-nam will affect North Korean politics.

We had better prepare for a nuclear emergency in North Korea rather than wasting our time discussing who is behind the assassination.

The author is a senior editor with People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn Follow him on Twitter @dinggangchina