[Editorial] We need a comprehensive solution to the issue of North Korea

Posted on : 2013-01-24 11:17 KST Modified on : 2013-01-24 11:17 KST

On Jan. 23, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed Resolution 2087, which extends sanctions against North Korea. The measure was taken 42 days after North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Dec. 12, 2012.

As a result, this is the third time that a UNSC resolution has imposed sanctions on North Korea, following resolutions 1718 and 1874, which came after long-range missile launches and a nuclear test in 2006 and 2009, respectively. One intriguing aspects of this round of sanctions is the fact that, unlike past sanctions, which followed a missile launch and a nuclear test, these sanctions are solely targeted at a rocket launch. This indicates how much the international community’s level of concern about North Korea’s provocative actions has increased.

This UNSC resolution clarifies and reinforces sections of previous resolutions that had been vague or relaxed. First of all, a provision has been added that asks member states to monitor overseas transactions with all of North Korea’s financial institutions. A measure has also been instituted for cases in which the flag state or crew do not comply with a search on the high seas, a situation for which no contingency had previously been provided.

A ‘catch-all’ system was introduced, according to which a member country that judges that a given item might be used for military purposes can prohibit it from being exported, even if it is not on the list of items placed under embargo by previous resolutions.

In addition, six organizations, including North Korea’s Outer Space Technology Committee, which oversaw the rocket launch, and four people in positions of responsibility have been added to the blacklist. While the enforceability of the sanctions is questionable since there are no provisions for punishment in the case of a violation by North Korea, the international community appears to have reached a firm consensus to severely punish any misbehavior by the North.

As expected, the North responded with a sharply worded rebuttal. In a statement released by the North’s Foreign Ministry two hours after the resolution was passed, it said it would “take steps for physical counteraction to bolster the military capabilities for self defense including the nuclear deterrence,” hinting at the possibility of a third nuclear test.

The North also said that, though it can allow dialogue seeking peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region, there will be no deliberations about denuclearization and that it will further develop and launch several kinds of useful satellites and even more powerful delivery systems. In other words, the North is absolutely unwilling to yield to the sanctions.

However, what the North needs to realize is that further provocation, far from helping it guarantee the safety and economic development it desires, will only further isolate the country and increase the suffering of its people.

The fact that China, led by Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, voted in favor of the UNSC resolution shows that even China is turning away from North Korea and its brinkmanship. The North Korean leadership must break out of the cycle of solipsism and defeatism and embrace the trends of a new age.

There is no reason why the Korean government should be really pleased by having succeeded at passing stronger resolutions. Looking at recent history makes it clear that the North Korea issue cannot be solved by sanctions alone. We must acknowledge the fact that, insofar as the North Korean problem is caused by the regime insecurity felt by the North Korean leadership, there can be no solution as long as we do not develop a framework to alleviate such insecurity.

In the end, the only course available to us is to move past the short-term measure of sanctions and work with the international community to identify a comprehensive solution, specifically, one that provides relief for the North’s regime anxiety while also providing it with economic support in exchange for dismantling its nuclear missiles.


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