A regional headache

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A regional headache

The stakes have gotten higher in the head-on confrontation between the United States and North Korea, sending the Korean Peninsula into turmoil.

We saw U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week step up the rhetoric against North Korea, warning of “tougher joint efforts” from the United States and its allies toward disarming the emerging nuclear weapons state.

The United Nations Security Council proved faithful to its June resolution of stringent actions against North Korea in response to the May nuclear test. It revealed the names of North Korean individuals and companies facing penalties and sanctions.

And Pyongyang’s No. 2, Kim Young-nam, president of the Supreme People’s Assembly, condemned the UN action, saying the six-party talks on denuclearization are “now gone forever,” adding that North Korea has now no choice but to “take decisive action to strengthen its nuclear deterrence.”

The North Korean disarmament is critical to all Korean people. That’s why we cannot emphasize more that the ongoing efforts to denuclearize North Korea should not in any way impair or reverse the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula. Not under any circumstances should the international community indulge North Korea as a nuclear weapons state. North Korea should not own nuclear weapons. If it does, they should be destroyed.

The North Korean nuclear issue cannot be lightly taken. It’s a regional headache that seriously undermines the international nonproliferation campaign. It poses a risk to South Korea, the United States, Japan, China and Russia, as well as the entire world.

The North has been pitching the nuclear issue as a bilateral problem between the United States. But even if the United States spearheads negotiations with Pyongyang, the problem can only be resolved when the international community is involved.

The first key to the solution is China, the North’s long-standing ally. The tepid and uncooperative role that China has chosen to play in the call for tougher action against North Korea is partly due to the fruitless disarmament talks.

A more active voice from Beijing could determine the success and failure of future negotiations.

The South Korean government should employ a more tight-knit, more sophisticated diplomatic effort. It must concoct countermeasures for a host of possible scenarios, considering recent North Korean bellicosity has been spurred by the ailing health of its leader Kim Jong-il.
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