Obama’s DMZ warning to NorthIn a symbolic message and fresh threat to North Korea on its plans for a long-range missile launch, U.S. President Barack Obama headed straight to the world’s most fortified border after arriving in South Korea on Sunday for the Nuclear Security Summit. He visited a U.S. military camp just 25 meters (82 feet) off the demilitarized zone and peered through binoculars across the border as North Korea prepares to launch a satellite on a long-range rocket next month despite international condemnation. His visit amid escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula explicitly illustrates a strong security alliance between South Korea and the U.S. and sends a stern warning against any potential military provocation.
Around the time Obama arrived at the DMZ, North Koreans held a large-scale mass congregation to commemorate the 100th day of the death of former leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang. The event is also a formal declaration that the not-yet-30 Kim Jong-un has come out from mourning for his deceased father, launching a new generation of leadership in the reclusive state.
The first assertion of power from the untested young leader is the plan to fire a satellite. The international community suspects it to be a cover for a new long-range missile project that violates the country’s international commitments and jeopardizes the recently-agreed-upon deal with Washington in return for resumed food aid. Intelligence authorities spotted the North Korean military moving a rocket to a northwestern site in preparation for the controversial launch in Tongchang-ri, close to the Chinese border. The U.S. has warned that the latest agreement made in Beijing will be abandoned if Pyongyang goes ahead with the launch.
Leaders of the U.S. and South Korea in a summit agreed that North Korea’s rocket launch would not only defy last month’s Washington-Pyongyang agreement to freeze the North’s nuclear and missile weapons program, but also the UN resolution that bans the state from using ballistic missile technology. Obama also raised the issue during his summit meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday, as Beijing remains the only government that can persuade Pyongyang through diplomatic pressure.
North Korea will only further isolate itself and draw harsher sanctions from the international community if it proceeds with the rocket launch. The new leadership should read the strong message from the U.S. and South Korea, as it represents the consensus of the 53 national leaders attending the Nuclear Security Summit.