Pyongyang’s dangerous turnNorth Korea is set on conducting its sixth nuclear test in defiance of China’s proposal for a breakthrough in North Korea issues. A senior government official in Seoul said Beijing had advised Pyongyang on a way out of its conundrum during North Korean Vice Minister Ri Kil-song’s visit to Beijing by accepting to end nuclear and missile provocations if South Korea and the United States halt joint military exercises or offer negotiations on a peace agreement in return for denuclearization. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a similar suggestion. But Pyongyang turned it down.
What Beijing offered were persistent requests of Pyongyang from the past. But Seoul and Washington flatly denied them claiming that joint military exercises were a defense drill against North Korean provocations, while North Korea’s nuclear development was illicit activity.
Pyongyang is passing on a hard-won opportunity. It suggests North Korea is near perfecting its nuclear weapons and underscores its will to go through with the weapons program to the end.
The international community fears North Korea will soon conduct its sixth nuclear test. Seoul officials believe North Korea can conduct a nuclear test within hours after leader Kim Jong-un issues the command. Foreign media outlets cite U.S. defense authorities predict a test within the month. The next test is expected to be on a greater scale to demonstrate its advancement in nuclear power.
South Korea and the U.S. must closely respond to North Korean nuclear provocations. We must ensure tighter enforcement of sanctions on Pyongyang. China must cooperate more rigorously to contain North Korea as it is clear that Pyongyang is defying Beijing as well as international calls to stop its nuclear development. China must remember that North Korea’s nuclear capabilities endanger China as much as they do the Korean Peninsula.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 25, Page 30