Playing with fireLess than 24 hours after North Korea’s launch of a long-range missile Wednesday, the UN Security Council issued a statement denouncing Pyongyang’s move in a unanimous decision by all 15 members of the council, including five permanent ones. The action by the highest body of the UN amounts to the sternest possible warning against Pyongyang’s repeated violations of UN resolutions. The security council is discussing substantial ways to impose even tougher sanctions on Pyongyang than ever before. We hope it comes up with measures powerful enough to deter the recalcitrant regime from further provocations down the road.
However, whether the UN can effectively penalize Pyongyang depends on what decision Beijing will make. The Chinese government had expressed unusually strong opposition to the North’s missile launch even before the crisis unfolded, stressing that Pyongyang must respect UN sanctions and resolutions. But North Korea flatly dismissed its “blood” ally’s advice by rushing to test-fire the missile. And yet Beijing is reportedly demonstrating reservations about new sanctions while criticizing Pyongyang’s latest gamble. That suggests China is not willing to take any real action against its ally, which may lead to an exacerbation of the quagmire on the Korean Peninsula.
However, the effects of Beijing’s overembrace of Pyongyang are always the worst. North Korea has never respected the international community’s deepening concerns and opposition to its military adventures. As a result, Pyongyang is a step closer to the possession of intercontinental ballistic missiles loaded with a nuclear warhead. If international society leaves the situation unattended, Northeast Asia will most likely fall into unheard-of chaos due to massive competition for nuclear armament in the region.
The conservative Liberal Democratic Party of Japan led by former prime minister and hardliner Shinzo Abe will surely win in the country’s general election next week. Japan’s right-wing politicians are poised to push ahead with not only rearming but nuclear arming of its Self-Defense Forces. Pyongyang’s missile launch offers them a good excuse for the remilitarization of Japan, which will inevitably cause a domino effect across Northeast Asia, including South Korea and Taiwan.
That runs counter to what Beijing has consistently emphasized: The security of Northeast Asia. Pyongyang’s persistent nuclear ambitions, in fact, pose a direct threat to Beijing’s national interests. As long as Pyongyang continues to play with fire, it will end up burning everyone.