David Wright, an international expert on the technical aspects of arms control, particularly those related to missile defense systems, missile proliferation, and space weapons, recently made an interesting analysis on North Korea and its reckless use of missiles to draw attention to itself.
He pointed out that on July 28, Pyongyang demonstrated that it is not only acquiring expertise but also has the ability to potentially strike a US State.
The July 28 test apparently demonstrated that Pyongyang can now fire a missile almost straight up to an altitude of about 2,300 miles and that on a standard trajectory it would have the range to reach a number of major cities in the US from the east to the west coast.
To be fair, not all of North Korea’s missile launches have been successful.
There were three failures in April after the failed test in March. Little is known about why those launches failed or even what missile was fired in March.
At any rate, the United States along with Japan and South Korea, have decided to adopt a more hands-on response as a consequence of these long-range missile tests, with a re-think in tactics.
The US is taking the lead in the UN towards the adoption of a Resolution by the UN Security Council for unanimously imposing new sanctions on North Korea.
Even Russia and China, two countries that have previously differed with others on how to handle Pyongyang, participated in this vote and joined in calls for North Korea to stop its missile tests; however, they also urged the US and South Korea to halt military drills.
The sanctions include the following: (a) A ban on imports of coal, seafood, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore from North Korea; (b) countries won’t receive new North Korean workers; (c) a ban on further joint ventures with North Korean entities or individuals; (d) no new investment in existing joint ventures; (e) targeting more individuals with travel bans and asset freezes; and (f) member states have to report to the Security Council within 90 days on how they have implemented this resolution.
North Korea has yet to officially respond to the new sanctions. However, a senior official has said: “We will make our stance clear when things are determined.”
An alternative approach
On the other hand, North Korea’s ruling party newspaper -- Rodong Sinmun -- has bluntly stated that nuclear action or sanctions taken by Washington would lead to an “unimaginable sea of fire” engulfing the US.
Analyst Alexander Gillespie has made some interesting observations in this regard.
He has pointed out that Trump and his allies could choose to expand the THAAD system of missile air defence but the risk with this approach is that it will lead to both North Korea and China rattling their sabres even louder.
Although the chances of these planned events leading to intentional war is very small, “the risks of unplanned events caused by paranoia, accidents, mistakes, or uncontrolled anger make this one of the most dangerous situations facing humanity since we almost had a nuclear war over Cuba in 1962.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also urged North Korea to be more cautious about its tests and about attacking Guam
The world needs to remember that North Korea is the country that the 2014 Commission of Inquiry by the UN Human Rights Council accused of crimes of extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions, persecution on political, racial, and gender grounds, enforced disappearance of persons, and prolonged starvation -- and that did not bother them at all. Nevertheless, despite the sanctions and international warnings and the stubbornness on the part of the North Korean authorities, there has been a faint glimmer of hope in the evolving dynamics.
Informally, North Korea is supposed to have remarked that South Korea’s offer of talks was “insincere.” This possible rejection has been interpreted as being connected with the mounting sanctions on North Korea. The Foreign Minister of China, Pyongyang’s closest ally (also present in the ASEAN meeting) was however more optimistic. He told journalists on August 7: “My feeling is that the North did not entirely reject the positive proposals raised by the South.” Wang Yi added that China also supported the South’s initiatives.
This was the first high-level encounter between the two Koreas since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office in May this year. Moon has long been a proponent of greater dialogue with Pyongyang in order to diffuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula. He helped craft the so-called “Sunshine Policy,” which called for increased engagement in the political and economic spheres.
Unresponsive and uncooperative
In July, South Korea’s Defence Ministry also proposed talks between the representatives of the two countries’ militaries at Tongil-gak on the North Korean side of Panmunjom, the so-called truce village in the De-militarised Zone (DMZ) that separates the two rivals. North Korea has yet to respond to the overtures.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a recent discussion with the Russian foreign minister on growing tensions between the USA and Russia, also urged North Korea to be more cautious about its tests and about attacking Guam.
He reiterated that the US hopes North Korea will choose a different path, and “when the conditions are right, we can sit and have a dialogue around the future of North Korea so that they feel secure and prosper economically.” The US has long said it would agree to talk only if North Korea agrees to denuclearisation -- something many analysts believe is unlikely.
Muhammad Zamir, a former Ambassador and Chief Information Commissioner of the Information Commission, is an analyst specialised in foreign affairs, right to information and good governance, He can be reached at [email protected]