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Commentary: International community must alter approach to Korean Peninsula to avoid dead end

By Jia Xiudong (People's Daily Online)    16:00, September 12, 2016

After the recently-concluded G20 and East Asian summits, the nuclear test launched by North Korea last Friday, Sept. 9 drew much scrutiny from the international community. It was the country's fifth nuclear test this decade.

There are likely three main reasons for this most recent test. First, the test was carried out on the country's national day, and may have been intended to bolster national pride. Second, in terms of technical development, the country is trying to verify the structure, movement, performance and power of its standard warheads. Third, North Korea hoped to demonstrate for the international community its uncompromising attitude toward external pressure and sanctions.

The nuclear test obviously violated resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council. For that reason, North Korea is now facing unprecedented international sanctions. What’s more, nuclear tests have not improved the country's sense of security. On the contrary, every test has backed the country into a more isolated diplomatic corner.

North Korea is attempting a synchronous development of its economy and nuclear arsenal. However, nuclear tests and the country’s acquisition of nuclear weapons have further escalated tensions on the peninsula, actively preventing the desired synchronous development.

Four of the five most recent nuclear tests happened during the presidency of Barack Obama. Now, with only four months left before he leaves the office, the U.S. president’s “strategic patience” proposition is on the edge of failure, rendering North Korea’s nuclear issue a casualty of the Asia-Pacific Rebalance strategy.

Nuclear dismantlement is a foregone precondition for diplomatic relations between the U.S. and North Korea. However, Obama’s strategic patience not only failed to facilitate the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, it was also unable to halt North Korea’s nuclear plans. Indeed, the U.S. is now in an especially difficult position, given that the country’s enhanced military presence in Northeast Asia – the stated purpose for which is to monitor North Korean nuclear threats – has added to regional tensions and deteriorated regional security.

Mutual suspicion is the root cause of the North Korean nuclear issue, a symptom left over from the Cold War. Northeast Asia is one of the few regions still drastically affected by the Cold War; the peninsula is still working toward the replacement of its armistice agreement with a peace treaty.

Against such a background, a spokesperson from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the security concerns of the Korean Peninsula can only be resolved in a way that serves all parties' interests. Any unilateral actions based on self-interest will only lead to a dead end, aggravating tensions and making it harder to achieve change.

Put bluntly, North Korea, together with the U.S., South Korea and Japan, are currently headed for just such a dead end. In contrast, China's proposal to pursue the denuclearization of the peninsula and to replace the armistice agreement with a peace treaty would help to foster long-term stability on the Korean Peninsula and across Northeast Asia.

(The author is a commentator for People's Daily and a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies.) 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor: Hongyu,Bianji)

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