Posted September. 05, 2017 08:50,
Updated September. 05, 2017 09:07
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday, “The U.S. is considering stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.” It is a precursor of a “secondary boycott," which sanctions third countries doing business with North Korea. President Trump reportedly also asked to be briefed on all available military options. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters with the joint chief of staff in uniform, "We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea, but as I said, we have many options to do so.”
It was well anticipated that the U.S. mentioned an economic and military boycott in the wake of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test. For Washington, there is no option except putting maximum pressure on North Korea as it has already tested an ICBM hydrogen bomb. In particular, the secondary boycott of the U.S. is targeting at China, which is the largest trading partner of the North. North Korea relies more than 90 percent of trade on China. Without cutting China’s oil supply, the lifeline to the Kim Jong Un regime, Washington believes it cannot stop North Korea from making major provocations.
Beijing does not seem to budge at all, however. The People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party-run newspaper, did not report North Korea’s nuclear test at all and the Global Times, its sister newspaper, said, “As the suspension of oil supply to the North and the closure of the North Korean-Chinese borders are not in the interest of China, Beijing should not be at the forefront of such political fight.” If the U.S. starts a secondary boycott, it should brace for a head-on confrontation with China. It remains to be seen whether Washington will actually conduct the boycott.
Seoul has even fewer bargaining chips. South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo said Monday that the participants of the National Security Council convened immediately after the North Korean nuclear test agreed on strengthening military confrontations rather than seeking a dialogue. However, the repeated “strong retaliation” or a “show of force” of the administration sound hollow. President Trump said, “South Korea is learning that appeasement is not working with its northern neighbor,” targeting at South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s emphasis on dialogues. President Moon will lose his place as he has been criticized for making itself overlooked by the U.S. in North Korea debates.
But we should not stay helplessly. In times like this, we should join the efforts of the international community in putting pressure on North Korea. President Moon will leave for Russia to attend the Eastern Economic Forum on Wednesday. He should draw an effective pressure on North Korea when meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He will also meet U.S. President Donald Trump during his visit to the U.N. in the middle of this month. It should be an opportunity to address differences between the two countries and make one voice. President Moon should no longer delay a visit to China. He needs to show diplomacy persuading Chinese President Xi Jinping who holds the key of international efforts.