News / Asia

    US Struggles With North Korea Response

    An event to assess the wider implications of North Korea’s recent nuclear test, at Washington's Brookings Institution, Feb 3, 2016 (VOA/ P. Dockins)
    An event to assess the wider implications of North Korea’s recent nuclear test, at Washington's Brookings Institution, Feb 3, 2016 (VOA/ P. Dockins)
    Pamela Dockins

    Although the U.S. and other world powers have sharply criticized North Korea for conducting a fourth nuclear test and announcing plans to launch an “observation satellite,” there is wide disagreement over what steps should be taken to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions.
     
    The U.S. Congress moved to impose additional sanctions on North Korea after it said it had carried out a successful test of a hydrogen bomb, last month.
     
    The House of Representatives passed a bill designed to make it more difficult for Pyongyang to get the hard currency that it needs for its nuclear weapons program. The Senate is considering a measure that would enhance U.S. penalties on North Korea.
     
    But analysts say sanctions alone are no game-changer when it comes to efforts to curb what world powers view as North Korea’s provocative actions.
     
    “I don’t think anyone in the United States government believes that the mere imposition of heightened sanctions will in some measure automatically get North Korea to alter its behavior,” said Jonathan Pollack, an East Asia policy analyst at a Wednesday forum at the Brookings Institution.
     
    But he said the penalties could “raise the costs” to Pyongyang for the action that it has undertaken.

    Satellite launch
     
    North Korea may have further heightened U.S. concerns when it announced, on Tuesday, plans to launch an “earth observation satellite” between February 8 and 25.
     
    The North Korean government says it has a sovereign right to pursue a space program but the U.S. and other world powers fear the launch would be an attempt by Pyongyang to covertly advance its long-range ballistic missile program, a move that would violate U.N. resolutions.
     
    Daniel Russel, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the U.S. is closely following reports of North Korea’s planned launch, which he said would be an “egregious violation” of international obligations.
     
    Analyst Katherine Moon said a new approach is needed to get North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s attention.
     
    “North Korea is trying new things, different things. I feel like we are the ones, outside of North Korea, that are responding with the same things,” said Moon, the South Korea-Korea Foundation chair at the Brookings Institution.
     
    Moon said there has been little change in how the U.S. responds to North Korea because there is a lack of a clear policy about “what to do with North Korea.”
     
    “Whatever we have been saying, it has not been working,” said Moon. “Yet, we won’t admit that it is not working and move on to something different."
     
    China Could Be Key
     
    As U.S. lawmakers consider new sanctions on North Korea, a similar effort is underway at the U.N., where the U.S. and other permanent members of the Security Council are pressing a seemingly reluctant China to endorse tough penalties against Pyongyang.
     
    “The sense of silence from China on this issue is really quite extraordinary,” said Pollack.

    China, North Korea’s economic lifeblood, has said it is committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula but believes the best way to achieve this is through consultations and negotiations.
     
    “Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, last week, during a news conference with Secretary of State John Kerry.
     
    Wang warned that any new resolutions, against North Korea, should not “provoke new tension” that could destabilize the region.
     
    China may continue to show reluctance in imposing any harsh penalties on North Korea, said Moon.
     
    “Unless North Korea’s actions threaten Chinese territory its people’s health, political stability, my belief is China will not act,” she said.
     
    In the end, the U.S. and other world powers may have few new options to consider as they weigh their response to the provocations.
     
    “We are moving out of our comfort zone of currently existing efforts to deter action by the north,” said Sheila Smith, a regional analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations.
     
    “Pretty soon, the alliances really do have to come to grips with the fact that they are going to have to deal with a very different Pyongyang if we allow it to go much further,” she said.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: American Eskimo from: San Jose, USA
    February 04, 2016 11:49 AM
    Saddam did not have weapon-of-mass-destruction as deterrence; where is he now? Kaddafy dropped his weapon program and where is he now? Fatboy Kim is not MONGOLOID and he knows "deterrence" and reserves his RIGHT to obtain WMD. China will not drop his troublesome friend just because someone is demanding.

    by: Paul
    February 04, 2016 8:25 AM
    First of all the Kim cult has no right to launch ballistic missiles and set off nuke weapons. They are not a country they are just a fascist crime family that is holding the north of a country hostage and its people. Every weapon that has been fired from that little pathetic Arsenal should be shot down immediately after a lift off. I

    If the Kim cult wasn't run by maniacs and a spoiled brat child they would have realised by now that their survival does not depend on these weapons it depends on becoming a valued member of the international community through economics and cooperation. The joint industrial Park with the South should be permanently shut down forever. All the promises they made for its reopening were nothing but lies which is the true nature of this childish maniac.

    But really what can you expect from a country that is built on lies, lies they don't even tried to hide. Enough is enough I feel sorry the blood will be spelt that things have to be done now before the situation gets even worse!

    by: R502 from: world
    February 03, 2016 11:07 PM
    Its the same story over an over. Bottom line US does not have the will to deal with North Korea when China has such an impact on the American economy. Its the same lame resolve from administration to administration pathetic. And North Korea knows it.

    by: greg
    February 03, 2016 10:26 PM
    Of coarse China will not get involved,because they don't want Nk to pour into thir country if the north is destabilyzed we need to take out fatboy before he does something stupid

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