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China should join efforts to deter North Korea’s nuclear tests

China should join efforts to deter North Korea’s nuclear tests

Posted April. 09, 2014 01:01,   


South Korean, the U.S. and Japanese senior representatives to the six party talks have met in Washington D.C. and reached an agreement to make united and effective efforts to deter North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations. It is remarkable that the representatives met in five months and sent a warning to North Korea, but the reaction seems somewhat insufficient considering North Korea’s blunt threat to conduct another nuclear test. Besides, it is not in line with the announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea on the results of the trilateral summit among South Korea, the United States and Japan held last month. After the summit, the ministry said, “(The three leaders) reconfirmed their commitment to coordination on the North Korean nuclear issues.” Moreover, North Korea is not likely to take the announcement by the three nations excluding China, the chair of six party talks, seriously.

Recently, North Korea has stated through its state-owned newspaper that "no self-defensive nuclear deterrence would lead to intolerable humiliation and tragedy.” This is a step forward from the statement made by its foreign ministry last month, which said, “(We) will conduct various trainings in order to use nuclear deterrence in various forms for diverse mid- and long-range targets with different striking power.” 38 North, an online site specialized in North Korea run by the Johns Hopkins Advanced School of International Studies has recently revealed after analyzing the on-going excavation activities in North Korea that "(the North) could be preparing Punggye-ri for a number of nuclear tests if the above analysis is correct."

North Korea seems to think that Ukraine has lost the Crimean Peninsula to Russia because the former voluntarily gave up its nuclear program. Such a perception makes it more difficult to persuade North Korea to willingly abandon its nuclear program. Chinese President Xi Jinping recommitted himself that it would never tolerate North Korea’s nuclear armament at the summits with Korean and U.S. presidents held in the Netherlands. For the six-party talks to gain momentum, the Chinese president’s active participation is critical.

Nuclear armament is not the only threat posed by North Korea. 38 North has expressed its concern that a shortage of cooling water in the Yongbyon nuclear facilities may lead to a radiation leak. In line with this, South Korean President Park Geun-hye also said in her keynote speech at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in The Hague, “A fire in the Yongbyon nuclear facilities (in North Korea) may cause an even more serious nuclear disaster than the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.” A nuclear accident in Yongbyon will deal a blow to China as well. It is time for China to reconsider its wait-and-see approach.