Pyongyang must think againU.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday said his government was considering placing North Korean back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism as a part of the options Washington was looking into to mount pressure on Pyongyang. He was warning that Pyongyang would return to the shameful list from which it had graduated in 2008 unless it dramatically shifts its position on nuclear weapons. It was also a clear caveat that Washington could take strong action if Pyongyang defies international warnings and goes ahead with the sixth nuclear test and long-range missile launch.
The labeling of a state as sponsoring terrorism would not make things greatly different for North Korea already under its toughest-yet UN Security Council sanctions. But symbolically, the U.S. is isolating North Korea and demanding other states do the same. The latest message from Washington was aimed both at Pyongyang and Beijing, demanding more active role from the latter.
Aboard the USS Ronald Reagan at a U.S. naval base in Japan, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said that “under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready” and brushed aside the possibility of bilateral or multilateral dialogue with North Korea. He made it clear that Washington wants to make Pyongyang surrender nuclear and missile weapons, not bargain for it.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who also is the current president of the UN Security Council, bluntly told North Korea that “We’re not trying to pick a fight, so don’t try and give us one” as a warning against Pyongyang. It is believed to be readying to launch another ballistic missile or testing a nuclear weapon on April 25, the 85th anniversary of its military’s founding, to make up for the embarrassing missile launch on April 15, the anniversary of national founder Kim Il Sung’s birth.
Some fear the U.S. has sent a mixed signal to Pyongyang by having the U.S. Navy strike group USS Carl Vinson head for Australia instead of the Korean Peninsula as earlier reported. But the position of an aircraft carrier can be adjusted. What North Korea must not doubt is the will of the international community. North Korea should look straight into its options and circumstances to come to a wise conclusion.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 21, Page 34