Dialogue is the only way to rein in North Korea
China alone cannot solve the crisis that threatens regional and global security; Donald Trump’s responsibility is clear cut: he has to reach out to Kim Jong-un
North Korea’s successful test-firing of a long-range ballistic rocket breaches a barrier that the world has long dreaded, but was an inevitability given Washington’s refusal to negotiate with the regime. Even as the reality settled in that leader Kim Jong-un could perhaps now target the US mainland with a nuclear missile, American President Donald Trump held on to a tried-and-failed strategy. His initial response was to call on China to “end this nonsense once and for all” and he then sought an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council. But diplomacy has always been the only viable way to handle the threat.
China and Russia, North Korea’s neighbours and closest allies, well know that. Neither wants the regime to collapse and have to deal with the consequences, nor do they or the region want to get dragged into another catastrophic Korean war. President Xi Jinping (習近平) and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, meeting in Moscow, urged all sides to quell tensions, with North Korea being called on to freeze its nuclear programme and the US and South Korea to halt military drills. Such actions would create an environment for much-needed dialogue.
Trump’s call for China’s help avoids the truth that North Korea’s weapons are intended to target the US and its allies, South Korea and Japan. Pyongyang has long sought a peace treaty with Washington to formally end the war, with the conditions laid out during four years of failed six-party talks brokered by Beijing. In the absence of negotiations, North Korea has pushed ahead with its nuclear and missile programmes and the US and UN Security Council have responded with bans and economic and diplomatic sanctions.
There is no certainty that North Korea has a missile-ready nuclear weapon. Just as with the rocket, though, the regime claims to have developed one and proof lies in testing. But the world need not sit by and wait for such an eventuality; it should instead be pressing for dialogue. China has joined in the sanctions, but there are limits and its most useful role can be in bringing sides together. Trump’s responsibility is clear cut: he has to reach out to Kim.