Japan obliged to play constructive role in settling DPRK issue
Together with the United States and the Republic of Korea, Japan has been asking China to do more to “rein in” the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The three countries hold China responsible for the growing nuclear threat the DPRK poses to them.
The three countries’ top nuclear envoys met in Singapore on July 11 on the sidelines of the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue and compared notes on how to put more pressure on the DPRK so as to make it abandon its nuclear program. On the sidelines of the just-concluded G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, the three countries’ leaders agreed to urge China to play a bigger role in containing the DPRK’s nuclear ambitions. And Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is said to have welcomed the U.S. sanctions on two Chinese individuals, a shipping company and a bank on suspicion of money laundering.
Concerted efforts of all parties are needed to address the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. But instead joining hands with the other parties in that endeavor, the U.S., the ROK and Japan want to impose more sanctions and are flexing their military muscles to force the DPRK to abandon its nuclear program. The three, which are part of the Six-Party Talks, seem to be fraying at the edges owing to their different priorities.
China has called on all the parties to return to the Six-Party Talks to resolve the peninsula nuclear issue. It has also put forward a “dual suspension” formula, which will require Pyongyang to temporarily halt its nuclear and missile tests, and the U.S. and the ROK to suspend their joint military drills.
Russia has said further sanctions will not help resolve the issue and objected to the United Nations Security Council’s condemnation of DPRK’s missile test on July 4, because the U.S.-drafted statement labeled it an intercontinental ballistic missile, a term Moscow disagrees with.
In April, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a special UN Security Council session that Washington would not engage in any form of diplomacy with Pyongyang until it suspends its entire nuclear weapons’ development program. He emphasized the U.S. will not reward the DPRK’s belligerent behavior with talks, which Abe has praised.
The U.S.’ military threats have not stopped the DPRK from continuing its nuclear program. Instead, the tit-for-tat strategies adopted by the U.S. and the DPRK have further escalated tensions in East Asia and beyond.
In 2005, the DPRK reached an agreement with China, Japan, Russia, the ROK and the U.S. to suspend its nuclear program in return for diplomatic rewards and energy assistance. The Six-Party Talks have not been held since 2008, but dialogue is still the only way to peacefully resolve the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.
In an op-ed article published in the Financial Times, Kurt Campbell, chairman of The Asia Group and a former U.S. assistant secretary of state, urged the U.S. and its partners in Northeast Asia to return to the Six-Party Talks as the pervasive sense of crisis engulfing the peninsula defies immediate resolution.
“Sitting down to talk to an adversary should never be seen as a reward but simply a mechanism to address a thorny problem,” Campbell said, adding that by indicating it is prepared to return to the negotiating table with Pyongyang, Washington will send a welcome message across the region.
After cycling through the pile of policy tools, including severe threats against Pyongyang, and warnings of tougher sanctions against the DPRK and Chinese commercial entities and the misplaced hope that Beijing can “contain” Pyongyang, it is clear that none has delivered on U.S. President Donald Trump’s Twitter promise to fix the problem, Campbell said.
The Korean Peninsula has become the world’s most dire nuclear hotspot. So, as a neighbor of the DPRK and an ally of the U.S., Japan needs to play a constructive role in resolving the peninsula nuclear issue and restoring permanent peace in the region.