Pyongyang’s absurd testDespite the international community’s repeated warnings, North Korea conducted a third nuclear test yesterday following 2006 and 2009 in what amounts to a reckless provocation threatening peace in Northeast Asia and the world. The fledgling Kim Jong-un regime must pay a hefty price for detonating another nuclear device. After brazenly defying the UN Security Council Resolution 2087, which warned of “significant action” if the North engages in yet another provocation, Pyongyang cannot avoid the international community’s tougher sanctions.
The UN sanctions must have a substantial impact on the regime, so they realize that the warning was not just a bluff. China and Russia, which have veto power in the Security Council, must do their best to make the North fully regret its decision.
We take special note of the fact that even in China, a public uproar against the provocation grows. Pyongyang’s nuclear possession is a grave threat to Beijing’s security too as it goes against China’s support for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. A nuclear-armed North Korea will most likely provoke South Korea, Japan and Taiwan to have nuclear weapons, which will eventually lead to a fierce competition for a military buildup in Northeast Asia amidst the tense Sino-Japan relations over territorial disputes over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. China would not want to see a formation of a trilateral missile defense system among the United States, South Korea and Japan. If China sincerely hopes for peace and stability in Northeast Asia, Beijing must send a resolute warning to Pyongyang.
Pyongyang’s successful nuclear test after the April launch of Unha-3, a long-range rocket, could make the country a de facto nuclear power. The North will seek stabilization of the regime through newfound leverage with America. Without solving the North’s nuclear conundrum, however, the Pyongyang-Washington relations cannot improve at all. The North made the wrong choice to further isolate the country.
Kim Jong-un tested the nuke when new leadership emerged in China, Japan and the U.S. The North has turned a golden opportunity for a diplomatic breakthrough into a crisis. China’s new leader, Xi Jin-ping, will have to wrestle with a new dilemma of how to get along with Pyongyang. Obama will also have trouble holding out his hands to Kim and Shinzo Abe will likely exploit it to accelerate Japan’s rightist movement. President-elect Park Geun-hye has to rethink her peace process based on trust-building.
The international community must concentrate on punishing the North. Yet it should not give up denuclearization of the peninsula. As the six-party talks have failed, Korea, America and China need to find a breakthrough through cooperation.