Dialogue, not rocketsNorth Korea’s intention of launching a long-range rocket could splash cold water on the warming mood between the two Koreas and renew tensions in the region. While Pyongyang insists its rocket launches are a part of its peaceful and legitimate space program, many fear they are being tested for use with an intercontinental ballistic missile. Many expect the launch to be timed with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party, on Aug. 10.
If Pyongyang proceeds with the plan, it would be jeopardizing its relationship with not only Seoul, but also the rest of the world. It would be a blatant breach of the Aug. 25 inter-Korean agreement to end conflict and seek reconciliation after the marathon talks between high-level officials. Seoul must do all it can to persuade Pyongyang against the drastic move.
The launch threat follows summit talks between President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sept. 2 in Beijing. The two leaders declared that they won’t tolerate any threat or provocation that could escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea would be outright challenging the international community if it defies the joint warning from Korean and Chinese leaders.
Any rocket launch is against U.N. Security Council Resolutions banning nuclear and longrange missile tests. Resolution 2094 — the fifth and most recent against North Korean nuclear and ballistic activities — was adopted unanimously by U.N. Security Council members including Russia and China and warned of strong actions if North Korea makes another provocation. Pyongyang would face harsher United Nations sanctions and international interference if it proceeds with its program. The launch also gives Seoul a reason to turn the propaganda loudspeakers back on.
If North Korea is serious about restoring its relationship with the South, it must stop the useless saber-rattling. It could become entirely isolated if it goes on crying wolf. Pyongyang may be trying to use its rockets to raise its leverage ahead of the United Nations General Assembly and longawaited reunion of families separated by the Korean War.
But dialogue, not threats, will allow Pyongyang to get what it wants. The world will be willing to help North Korea only when it genuinely tries to come out of isolation. North Korean leaders must read the international and regional conditions well and make decisions wisely.