Looking for good options
Seoul needs a coordinated backing from the international society to respond to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test. Apart from resuming propaganda broadcasts on the front lines, the measures we can take on our own are limited. The United Nations Security Council is discussing “significant” punitive actions. Korean and U.S. leaders vowed the “most powerful and comprehensive” sanctions. The measures must not stop at bans on luxury goods or travel of government figures. They must be as effective as the U.S. blanket sanctions on Cuba and their boycott on companies and traders in Iran doing business with North Korea.
The response must be closely knit. The sanctions applied so far on North Korea have been more symbolic than effective. China has continued to provide the fuel and food North Korea needs. Expensive foreign cars and wines are still coming into the country for elite North Koreans through a third country. UN sanctions are of no use if such loopholes exist.
We must immediately reinforce nuclear deterrence. Whether the fourth test was actually of a hydrogen bomb as Pyongyang claims is yet to be confirmed. It’s almost certain that the country has made progress in the technology of miniaturizing nuclear materials for bombs. We must hurry to establish a deterrence umbrella and capabilities together with the United States by accelerating the plan to deploy anti-nuclear submarines and long-range B-52 jet bombers.
But the fundamental solution is to have Pyongyang yield its nuclear weapons program and join us on a common path towards peace. We must work with Beijing and Washington to draw Pyongyang onto that path.
China must be more proactive on the issue as resolution of North Korean nuclear problem could serve not only regional interests, but its own as well. The United States should abandon its rigid North Korean policy, which is now considered “strategic ignorance” rather than “strategic patience.” North Korea actually stopped nuclear development while it was talking with the United States in the past. A military option would be disastrous. Dialogue is the only feasible alternative whether we like it or not. Emotional hard-line stances will help no one.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 8, Page 30