In the past few months, North Korea has launched multiple rockets, thus provoking its neighbors and the USA. Under Kim Jong Un, the North Korean government has developed long-distance rockets and nuclear war heads. The last few tests demonstrated that North Korea’s rockets can already reach Hawaii, consequently confirming that not much more is necessary for a nuclear attack on American mainland. Last fall, the UN imposed new sanctions against North Korea after once again testing rockets and nuclear weapons. The sanctions have remained ineffective however, especially due to China’s lack of strict implementation. While China is the only country to do business with North Korea, and therefore holds a certain control over the country, the other neighboring countries of Japan and South Korea are powerless. After the most recent rocket tests, Trump indicated that China needed to put more pressure on Pyongyang, otherwise the USA would move forward unilaterally against North Korea. Trump is striking a new tone; up to now mutual deterrence was strong and prevented any serious attack.
The threats that Trump has verbalized must be taken seriously, especially since little is known about his foreign policy strategy and the fact that it is characterized by a certain unpredictability. What’s more, Japan and South Korea, being directly in North Korea’s line of fire, are dependent on the protection from the USA. President Trump has criticized this dependence, calling Japan and South Korea “free loaders”. Last week, with help from the US, South Korea and Japan began working on their naval defense, which should offer an effective reaction to any possible attack from North Korea.
The approach so far has been mainly based on sanctions against North Korea. Nonetheless, Pyongyang rearmed and tested rockets. No progress has been made regarding North Korea’s nuclear program in the last 20 years using the current mode of response. In the meantime, it is believed that North Korea is in possession of more than 20 nuclear war heads. Threats and sanctions remain futile, and instead provocations have been made and suspicion aroused. To date, attempts at reproaching the government has only strengthened it and weakened the people.
In order to make progress, new strategies are necessary. This includes stronger military responses from neighboring Japan and South Korea; perhaps even a nuclear deterrent from them in order to keep equilibrium in the region. This could lessen the dependence on the US and its fickle foreign policy and promote its own safety. Pyongyang wants international recognition and diplomatic connections. Negotiations are not possible with the current regime under Kim Jong Un; international recognition is only conceivable without him. Despite this, a willingness to talk must be shown however superficially, instead of pushing an armed North Korea into a corner.
China’s role in this is also relevant for the continued existence of a North Korean regime. If China were to support the international sanctions in the area of finance, then there would be an effective means against Kim Jong Un in hand and a coup would be probable. The approach to North Korea and its nuclear problem has not produced the desired results for the last 20 years. A new concept could change this.