Keep the pressure onIt appears North Korea passed the 85th anniversary of the founding of its army without a significant provocation. Many security experts forecasted a possible sixth nuclear test or ballistic missile test. This remarkable turn could be attributed to the international community’s concerted effort to restrain the regime from taking a dangerous path.
The United States and China this time put unprecedentedly strong pressure on North Korea. Uncle Sam even sent USS Michigan — a nuclear-powered submarine equipped with over 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles — to Busan along with the USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz-class supercarrier, in the East Sea.
U.S. President Donald Trump pressured North Korea by directly talking with the leaders of China and Japan on the phone. On Monday, he invited members of the UN Security Council to the White House to urge them to prepare reinforced additional sanctions on Pyongyang. Trump once again sent stern messages that the United States will launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korean nuclear facilities if it crosses the red line, i.e. another nuclear test or ICBM launch.
China also changed its attitude in a stunning way. The Global Times, one of China’s state mouthpieces, warned that if the North conducts a sixth nuclear test, it will have crossed the point of no return and will suffer. Also, news that gas stations in Pyongyang are running out of oil carries great significance. Photos show cars increasingly lining up to fill their tanks, which suggests Pyongyang may be stockpiling gasoline to prepare for Beijing cutting its oil supplies.
Then there is the tripartite cooperation among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo, which is more solid than ever. The message that the representatives issued after Tuesday’s meeting in Tokyo was stern. It said they will take punitive action the North cannot endure if it provokes again.
The international community is fortunately seeking its tightest-ever coordination to pressure Pyongyang. But we cannot feel at ease, even if the April 25 anniversary passes without provocation. The North has already finished preparations for another nuclear test and is in the last stage of developing ICBMs. The international community must let Pyongyang know that it will face merciless retaliation if it really chooses to provoke us again.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 26, Page 34