To further complicate the situation on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea fired a new surface-to-ship cruise missile on June 8. According to the country’s Central News Agency, the projectile developed by the Academy of Sciences for National Defense was a “success”.
On June 10, the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, carried an editorial claiming that the recent tests of “strategic weapons”, including the new missile, indicate that the country’s weaponry researches have developed rapidly and nearly reached the “strategic goal” of firing an intercontinental ballistic missile. The imminent ICBM launch, the paper said, “will be a historical milestone marking the failure of America’s hostility towards Korea.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency published its 2016 annual report on June 12, expressing concerns over Pyongyang’s continuation of nuclear activities.
Against this backdrop, South Korean President Moon Jae-in offered to start an unconditional dialogue with Pyongyang so long as the North does not take new provocative moves with nuclear missiles. In a speech delivered on June 15 marking the 17 anniversary of the publication of the June 15 Joint Declaration, Moon said the dialogue could discuss such issues as Pyongyang completely renouncing nuclear development, establishment of a peninsular peace mechanism and normalization of North Korea-US relations. A few days earlier, the North’s Commission for Peaceful Unification of Fatherland put forward three principles for developing North-South relations, namely national independence, extinguishing hostility towards compatriots and defusing military tension. These positive messages from both sides brought hope of a reversal of the tensing situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Since North Korea carried out two nuclear tests last year and Kim Jong-un announced in his New Year’s Day message that Pyongyang’s ICBM development had “entered the final stage”, the country has conducted nine missile launches, including three right in the month of Moon’s assumption of office – the “Mars 12” mid-and-long-range ballistic missile on May 14, the “North Star II” mid-range ballistic missile on the 21st and the “Scud” short-range ballistic missile on the 29th.
The grim situation forces one to think: What is the right way to realize lasting stability and peace on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia? The Korean War Armistice Agreement was signed on July 27, 1953. Who among those present at the signing ceremony would envisage that the armistice would stay unchanged 64 years later? The long-lasting yet flimsy armistice has generated a sense of insecurity, leading to alternating spirals of military flare-ups and nuclear tests, which seriously threaten regional and global security and stability.
In the final analysis, the repeated cycles of tension on the peninsula stems from the Cold War mentality and the state of armistice that still shroud the peninsula. That calls for an effort to study the peninsular situation and the North Korean nuclear issue from global, historical and regional perspectives and seek a final solution to the two problems of nuclear arms and a peaceful regime for both Koreas.
The crisis that has lasted for more than half a century has become the only “living fossil” of the Cold War period and the only existent state of war.
The situation has a direct impact on Asia’s security, peace and development. Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward a novel concept in May 2014, which called for establishing “common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable” security for Asia. Based on this concept, China suggested to both sides on the Korean Peninsula a “double-track” mindset and a “dual suspension” solution and urged them to change from confrontation to dialogue.
After both sides released positive messages on peninsular peace recently, China immediately welcomed the moves, saying that efforts to improve relations and seek reconciliation serve the fundamental interests of both sides as one nation, as well as help promote peace and development in the region. Pyongyang insists that its tenacious effort to develop nuclear weapons is due to Washington’s hostility towards it. Therefore, China is happy to see, and support, both parties going into dialogue to increase mutual understanding and trust. China hopes that they take decisive and constructive moves to settle the problem through dialogues and negotiations.
The two Koreas and other relevant parties should focus their concern on peninsular, Asian and global peace and return to the negotiation table to create a new peace regime on “dual tracks”. This will help the peninsula, Northeast Asia and the whole Asian region realize permanent stability and peaceful development.
China US Focus