North Korean Rocket Launch More Likely
Could it be
that President Obama’s visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, in a bid to impress
U.S. voters, has made it more likely that North Korea will test a rocket
capable of carrying a nuclear weapon? According to Wang Hui
of China’s state-controlled China Daily,
not only is Obama raising tensions, but it appears he is trying to turn the
Nuclear Security Summit into a forum for discussing North Korea, which will
undermine the summit’s purpose of ensuring nuclear safety and preventing
As expected, U.S. President Barack Obama visited the Demilitarized
Zone [DMZ] between the Republic of Korea [South Korea] and the Democratic
People's Republic of Korea [North Korea] on Sunday. His visit came at a
sensitive time, adding additional uncertainty to U.S.-North Korea relations and
global efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
Arriving on the eve of the second Nuclear Security Summit
being hosted by South Korea, Mr. Obama went directly to meet troops at an
American base on the edge of the Demilitarized Zone.
Created after the Korean War ceasefire in 1953, the DMZ is a
2.5-mile-wide, 150-mile-long legacy of the Cold War that provides a buffer
between the two Koreas. About 2 million combat troops are stationed on both
side of what is the world's most heavily-militarized zone.
Then on Monday, Obama issued a stern warning to Pyongyang
that its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons undermines regional security.
Already over the past few weeks, there has been some pushing
and shoving between the two countries. On March 16, Pyongyang announced that in
April, it would launch a satellite into orbit on the back of a long-range
rocket. Washington immediately condemned the launch as a violation of North
Korea’s promise to halt the launch of long-range missiles, nuclear testing and
uranium enrichment. Obama said the planned launch jeopardizes a deal to resume U.S.
food aid to the DRPK, and could result in a
tightening of harsh economic sanctions on the country.
The deal to resume U.S. food aid, agreed to earlier this
month, was widely perceived as a positive development that might contribute to global
efforts to denuclearize the peninsula. In exchange for food aid, the DPRK agreed to suspend nuclear testing, long-range missile
launches and uranium enrichment at its Nyongbyon
facility, and allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to
monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment. Posted by Worldmeets.US
Regrettably, since Pyongyang made its launch plan public,
the momentum toward reconciliation between Washington and Pyongyang has been
disrupted. After its threat to hold back the food aid it promised, the U.S.
made yet another gesture raising tension with the DPRK.
It announced on March 21 that it had suspended efforts to recover the remains
of American soldiers in North Korea. The operation only resumed last October
after being stalled for six years.
Against the backdrop of these new frictions, Obama stepped
onto one of the most sensitive strips of land on earth. It is difficult to
predict to what extent Pyongyang will view this as a provocation and what it
will do in response. But it will certainly make it more difficult for the international
community to persuade Pyongyang to drop its rocket launch.
The current tension between Washington and Pyongyang has its
roots in the long-term enmity and deep political suspicion between the two
countries. Both should understand that they have a responsibility to peacefully
resolve the issue of the Korean Peninsula. Both sides should exercise restraint
and bear in mind the larger picture of regional stability.
Some speculate that the gestures of President Obama may be a
signal that the North Korea nuclear issue will be high on the agenda at the Nuclear
Security Summit. Should this be the case, it may distract global attention from
the task at hand: the security of nuclear materials and safety of nuclear
facilities, issues that concern the global village as a whole. The North Korea
nuclear issue should be reserved for its proper forum, the Six-Party Talks.
The Seoul summit should be a platform for uniting
governments and international organizations on endeavors like ensuring nuclear safety
and preventing nuclear terrorism. It should not be turned into a place where the
seeds of discord are sown among members of the international community over
complicated regional issues like the Korean Peninsula.
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