North Korea’s missile and nuclear provocations are continuing. The country put Kwangmyongsong-4 (Shining Star) satellite, into the orbit on 7 February, sparking a widespread condemnation. This brings Australia, much of Western Europe, and the U.S. West Coast in the range of a North Korean warhead ranging up to 9000 km. South Korea and Japan could be the real victims, where Russia also falls in the same distance.
The United Nations Security Council on 7th February unanimously condemned North Korea’s launch of a long-range missile, as a violation of its resolutions, banning ballistic missile tests and asking for new sanctions. Now many countries have been demanding stiff sanctions on North Korea.
China has perceived that deploying an anti-missile system would only escalate tension. However, diplomatic efforts to persuade North Korea to disassociate from ballistic missile measures look impossible. The Chinese diplomat Wu Dawei could not convince North Korea leader Kim Jong-un from ballistic missile provocations as he visited Pyongyang day before ballistic missile was launched.
Time is now becoming difficult for China to prevent North Korea from such actions. North Korea has virtually become a recalcitrant ally(of China). Public opinion strongly grows against North Korea in China but it does not want a hostile North Korea on its border.
China is upset. The North Korean nuclear testing and ballistic missile launch also put them in a dilemma, where it is no longer a defender of North Korea’s nuclear program. The reaction of the international community was also too harsh. China has consistently held to three principles: denuclearizing on the Korean Peninsula, guarding the Peninsula’s peace and stability, and resolving the issue peacefully through dialogue, Chinese Foreign Ministry Wang YI told his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se in the conversation on 8th December,2015.
Public resentment grew in China against North Korean nuclear testing as a large number think that North Korean nuclear testing poses a threat to China’s security, thinking that the North Korean regime got too crazy. They think China must cut-off aid, food, and oil supply to North Korea. Policy-makers in Beijing, however think that the collapse of regime in Pyongyang would threaten China’s own security on its border, which it does not appreciate.
Earlier, the January testing was the fourth since North Korean commenced on the nuclear path since 2006. The testing was conducted underground near China’s border without any environmental radiation on the Chinese side. Earlier, the testing was conducted in 2009 and 2013.North Korea has been continuing its nuclear defiance since 2006, where miniaturised hydrogen testing on 6 January threatened peace on the Korean Peninsula on the one hand, and deteriorates relations with South Korea and Japan and the West on the other hand. The region of North East Asia has become highly volatile by North Korean provocations.
North Korea called it a ‘nuclear deterrence for self-defense’ against the United States to secure its borders. This means that the direct thread comes from South Korea and the United States. They have a strategic mantra: The reason the US attacked Afghanistan under the Taliban was because the country did not possess nuclear arsenals. Whenever North Korea goes for nuclear and missile testing, it warns the United States with “dire consequences”. This time, they said that they were ready to detonate hydrogen bombs, capable of wiping out the United States all at once, claiming that it has succeeded in developing miniaturized nuclear weapons.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called this launch “deeply deplorable, while China, South Korea, Japan, European Union, Australia, have repeatedly warned North Korea not to go forward with ballistic missile testing. The British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions present a “threat to regional and international security”.
South Korea is always a direct and immediate victim of North Korean provocations. Seoul has vowed to make the North “pay the price” for its nuclear provocation. The United States would defend the South in case of North Korean attack. South Korea thinks that the North Korean action brings the already divided Peninsula to the brink of war. This time, South Korea observed falling of object in the Yellow River when the ballistic missile was launched.
North Korean nuclear and missile launching is a setback to reunification efforts too. Already troubled relations between the two Koreas were further worsened. They seized an ordered for military takeover of the joint Industrial Complex at Kaesong, built by South Korean investors to overcome economic woes. It was a symbol of reunification.
The US sent its B-52 bomber from Guam to fly over Seoul in a move to show solidarity with South Korea. The US intends to work closely with China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea to compel North Korea to live up its commitments to get rid of its nuclear weapons. The US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged China to end business with North Korea.
It is questionable whether nuclear arsenals and ballistic missiles would add a sense of security and beef up North Korean defence or further isolate the country. The Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite has landed in the orbit. Western scientists, however, could not confirm if the satellite sends signals, doubting it like the hydrogen explosions. Sanctions have destructed North Korean economy and confined its diplomacy. Even the largest aid donor, China, has been drifting away from North Korea. It is time to re-think over its security and defence policy by the ruling clique in Pyongyang.
By Dr Ahmad Rashid Malik