U.S. President Barack Obama has poured scorn on North Korea. In an interview with YouTube personalities Thursday, he said, “It’s brutal and it’s oppressive and as a consequence, the country can’t really even feed its own people … Over time, you will see a regime like this collapse.” It is shocking that a U.S. president used such straightforward words to describe the North.
Six years after Obama vowed to pursue drastic and direct diplomacy when he took office, America agreed to normalize relations with Cuba, and Washington’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear weapons program also have made noticeable progress. In the meantime, North Korea - once touted by the Obama administration as a top priority for better relations - has become the “worst dictatorship destined to collapse.”
The responsibility lies with the North. The rogue state fired a missile shortly after Obama announced his ambitious initiative of a “nuclear-free world” in Prague on April 5, 2009. In the following month, North Korea pressed ahead with its second nuclear test. In April 2012, Pyongyang fired a long-range missile one month after it accepted Washington’s offer of humanitarian aid in return for the suspension of missile and nuclear tests. The U.S. government’s “strategic patience” has transformed into a “deliberate disregard” now.
Since the North’s alleged hacking of Sony Pictures last month, Obama started to build more pressure on the North than before. Obama’s statement in his interview on YouTube was unequivocal: The U.S. government will further pressure the North over the next two years by utilizing all available means, including the diffusion of information through the Internet if the North continues to reject the denuclearization talks.
Pyongyang must listen to Obama’s warning. Returning to the negotiation table is the only way out from its isolation and financial hardships. Regrettably, the North attributes the inter-Korean stalemate to the South.
Our government must deal with the situation wisely. Obama’s mentioning of the taboo word “collapse” suggests that Washington’s support for a South-North dialogue is conditional, as seen in his remarks that inter-Korean dialogue must fuel, not obstruct, denuclearization talks. Unless inter-Korean ties help improve U.S.-North relations, which again could help South-North relations, it could easily end up a deadlock. The government must find effective ways to encourage the North to return to the six-party talks so that U.S.-North relations can thaw. JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 26, Page 30