North must seize opportunityRe-elected President Barack Obama urged North Korea to scrap its long-cherished nuclear ambitions and take the reform path on his visit to Myanmar. In a nationally televised speech in Yangon in the long-oppressed state, Obama said he has demanded Pyongyang choose one of two options: “put down its nuclear weapons and move toward peace and progress” or continue its current path. In the former case, North Koreans can expect America to reach out and help them, Obama said. He also emphasized that his visit to Myanmar was a case that proves he keeps such promises.
When he was president-elect in 2008, Obama hinted at the possibility of an aggressive approach to the recalcitrant regime in Pyongyang by stressing a need for “tough and direct foreign policies.” Obama has again extended a hand to the North right after his re-election. Four years ago, North Korea flatly dismissed Obama’s proposal by firing a long-range missile and doing its second nuclear test. After that, America turned to a passive “strategic patience.” Though Washington managed to strike a deal in February with Pyongyang to provide nutritional aid in return for a suspension of nuclear tests and missile launches, North Korea broke the agreement with a missile launch test. Obama’s offer this time can be understood as his third reconciliatory gesture.
Obama’s offer came after Pyongyang stressed the need for dialogue with Washington through the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s Workers’ Party, and the Choson Sinbo, a Pyongyang mouthpiece in Japan. Obama’s proposal is a reply. Obama’s remarks also represent a strong challenge to Pyongyang to change its course given its violations of agreements over the past four years.
East Asia faces a turning point. Leadership changes are taking place in China, Korea and Japan. North Korea, too, is in the process of consolidating an unprecedented power succession. A power battle between America and China is ongoing, while China and Japan are engrossed in territorial disputes. Those are signs of a lot of energy being expended on a new world order. Pyongyang should change its lopsided trajectory and join the new tide of the 21st century. We urge North Korea to seize a golden opportunity before it’s too late.