North Korea’s nuclear test: Opportunity for regional paradigm shift
Published : 2013-02-18 19:38
Updated : 2013-02-18 19:38
North Korea has conducted its anticipated nuclear test. Unfortunately, our deterrent policy failed again. It was more than a simple provocation. The test should be seen as a diplomatic and military challenge targeting new leaders in Korea, China and Japan, and the second Obama administration.
Now it is time to decide how to respond, taking into account the possibility that North Korea could take further actions after our response. While considering appropriate sanctions, we need to realize that the North’s nuclear test has given us a chance to revise our strategy toward North Korea. We need to address North Korea’s nuclear issue within a much broader scope for ensuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and Asia.
Kim Jong-un was well aware of the additional international sanctions North Korea would face if it conducted a nuclear test, as already stated in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2087. Kim’s strategic calculation, however, resulted in a decision that the strategic benefits of a test would surpass the costs. Whether Kim’s strategic judgment was right or wrong, our deterrent efforts obviously failed to prevent the nuclear test. If we make a strategic mistake in responding to the test, it is apparent that the current situation will become worse. North Korea is less likely to hesitate to take additional provocations to test our strategic patience or tolerance.
The most important ― but overlooked ― lesson found from negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear issue over the past two decades is that our multilateral mechanism has not been successful in resolving the issue, rather at most playing a limited role in managing the status-quo. It is highly controversial to discuss how effective the Six-Party talks have been in leading international negotiations concerning the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear development. Now, we should not delay it any further to discuss a multilateral security framework beyond addressing North Korean issues.
The successful effectiveness of such regional dialogue requires issue-related countries, particularly Chinese government, to declare clear and transparent denuclearization policy for the peace and prosperity of Asia. This regional initiative would contribute to strengthening and binding international efforts to change North Korea’s strategic mindset of using its nuclear card.
Although North Korea has manipulated its nuclear card for multiple strategic purposes, our international efforts concentrate excessively on dismantling a nuclear weapon development. To fix this asymmetric connection requires shifting a strategic guidance of international efforts to resolve North Korea’s nuclear issue.
It should be recalled that the UNSC has a greater responsibility for the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula than dismantling North Korea’s nuclear development program. We, along with the UNSC, have to demonstrate our strategic will to take steps required to adopt a new resolution for peaceful armistice maintenance on the Korean Peninsula, adjusting the roles and missions of U.N. member states and the United Nations Command in responding to recent North Korean provocations.
Without a paradigm shift in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear provocations, we would consciously or unconsciously become accustomed to managing a strategic risk rather than removing the threat.
North Korea’s nuclear armament has a significant impact on the future shape of the security environment in Asia amid the increase of military tension over disputed islands and U.S. military and a diplomatic shift to Asia. In addition, a peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula would become unrealistic without denuclearization. At this moment, it is critical to draw attention from the leaders of Korea, the United States, and China.
By Park Jin-ho
The writer is a legislative assistant to Rep. Hwang Jin-ha of the ruling Saenuri Party. ― Ed.