| The tragic sinking of the ferry Sewol is so saddening. The disaster gain intensive media coverage in Japan, too, causing Japanese people`s sympathy for the victims. Despite the tragedy, however, international politics in Northeast Asia is making rapid progress. U.S. President Barack Obama made a state visit to Japan on Wednesday. After a summit on the following day, Obama said the Senkaku Islands, on which China lays its territorial claim, is under the U.S.-Japan security treaty. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was very active in Japan`s negotiations with the U.S. for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional free-trade deal.
Those were not all. Observations are emerging rapidly that North Korea will likely conduct its fourth nuclear test in sync with Obama`s visit to South Korea. Friday was the founding anniversary of the North Korean military.
Seoul`s defense ministry told a news briefing Tuesday that numerous activities in the North`s test site were observed, including the installation of a cover on an underground tunnel and increased vehicle traffic. The ministry said the North could conduct a surprise nuclear test within a short period of time.
About a month ago, the United Nations Security Council issued a press statement denouncing North Korea`s launch of a mid-range Rodong missile. At that time, the North`s foreign ministry released a statement that it would not rule out a new form of nuclear test in order to further strengthen its "nuclear deterrence."
In case of a worst-case scenario, South Korean President Park Geun-hye had a phone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, asking Beijing to dissuade Pyongyang from conducting a nuclear test. Xi told Park that preventing escalation of tensions on the peninsula would serve the interest of both Seoul and Beijing. The Seoul-Beijing cooperation in warning the North against a test carries a significant meaning.
Of course, the South Korean defense ministry did not rule out the possibility that the North was pretending to be preparing for a nuclear test. Before the third nuclear test in February last year, the North`s powerful National Defense Commission, the Korean Workers Party`s Central Military Committee and the Supreme Command of the North Korean military came to the fore and staged brinkmanship even after a test. This time, only the North Korean foreign ministry is at the forefront of the nuclear ruckus.
If the North does carry out another nuclear test, it will face grave consequences. The international community has expanded financial sanctions on the North and made it mandatory to inspect ships suspected to be carrying contraband cargo.
In addition, a nuclear test would put an end to Pyongyang`s dialogue with Seoul and Tokyo, derail the six-party talks, and make it impossible for the North to negotiate with the U.S. Even worse would be aggravation in Pyongyang`s ties with Beijing. Without economic cooperation with China, the North`s economic revival would become impossible. Then, Pyongyang`s pursuit of both economic construction and nuclear development would be frustrated.
Moreover, China could play its "South Korea card" against the North. Amid worsening ties with Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing, the Chinese president`s visit to Seoul would transform the strategic environment in Northeast Asia. It is very complicated to calculate gains and losses by South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, it is clear that the North would suffer huge losses.
Based on this inference, the North`s nuclear test is a suicide. Nevertheless, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pushes ahead with a nuclear test, it must be aimed at striking Obama`s visit to Seoul in an expression of Pyongyang`s irritation by regular joint military exercises by the South and the U.S. and the continuation of Obama`s "strategic patience."
Judging from the enormous consequences that a nuclear test would bring about, it can be said that the North`s fourth test means a dangerous brinkmanship caused by Kim`s lack of experience. There is no one in the North to stop Kim`s violent drive after the execution of his once-powerful uncle-in-law Jang Song Thaek and the disappearance of his wife Kim Kyong Hui.