[Editorial] US should consider China, Russia’s proposal for lifting sanctions on N. Korea

Posted on : 2019-12-23 17:45 KST Modified on : 2019-12-23 17:45 KST
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer holds a press conference at the Capitol Building in Washington on Dec. 17.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer holds a press conference at the Capitol Building in Washington on Dec. 17.

On Dec. 18, eight leading Democrats in the US Senate, including minority leader Chuck Schumer, sent a letter to US President Donald Trump, urging him not to resume the threats of “fire and fury.” Amid rising tensions and increasingly harsher threats between North Korea and the US as the end of the year approaches, which North Korea has said is the deadline for negotiations, the eight senators warned of the dangers of a hardline policy on North Korea that countenances the military option and called for the creation of a workable diplomatic solution. It’s meaningful that veteran senators are urging Trump to engage in dialogue at a critical moment, when affairs on the Korean Peninsula are moving in a dangerous direction. We hope that not only the Trump administration but also North Korea will offer realistic and reasonable plans for immediately resuming negotiations.

“We are disturbed that almost two years after the Singapore Summit your administration has yet to develop a workable diplomatic process,” the senators said in the letter, expressing their “hope that you will execute a serious diplomatic plan before it is too late.”

“It would be a severe miscalculation to believe that a resumption of ‘fire and fury’ threats and other attempts at nuclear coercion against North Korea, which can increase the risk of a catastrophic war, can lead to better results than the negotiating table,” they said. These remarks appear to reflect concerns about Trump’s recent use of the disparaging epithet “Rocket Man” to refer to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and indications that Trump reserves the right to use military force against North Korea if necessary.

While Trump is obviously the intended recipient of the letter, the senators’ message effectively applies to North Korea as well. In recent weeks, Pyongyang has been cranking up the threat level by referring to “crucial tests” and a “Christmas present,” hinting at the possibility of resuming nuclear tests or long-range missile tests. Furthermore, the North obstinately ignored a public proposal for dialogue made by US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who is also the US’ special representative for North Korea, during a recent trip to Seoul.

The Korean Peninsula must not be allowed to return to the perilous military confrontation of two years ago after the “end-of-the-year deadline.” To prevent that, North Korea needs to demonstrate a strong commitment to having face-to-face dialogue with the US. As the senators recommended, the US needs to bring North Korea to the negotiating table by presenting a concrete “workable diplomatic process.” In that sense, the US ought to be flexible in considering China and Russia’s recent proposal for partially lifting sanctions on North Korea instead of simply rejecting that proposal outright.

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