In recent weeks, tension has risen on the Korean Peninsula over fears that North Korea may launch nuclear-armed missiles in the region. These fears heightened following threats from the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to attack South Korea, Japan and United States’ bases in the region.
The threats came shortly before festivities marking the 101st anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s founding father, Kim 11 Sung, on April 15. Though the fear that North Korea might use the occasion of the national holiday to demonstrate its military capability by launching a medium-range ballistic missile as it did last year did not materialize, we urge the country to embrace meaningful dialogue in resolving issues.
The world cannot afford another war. We join the international community to strongly condemn North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology development programmes.
Now is the time to end the country’s years of belligerence to reduce the current tension on the peninsula. The world needs peace, not war, especially in these trying times that terrorism has become a major challenge troubling nations across the globe. The current crisis on the Peninsula is reminiscent of previous ones that put the world on knife-edge, yet with no concrete efforts to rein in North Korea.
The region has been in a state of heightened military tension after North Korea carried out its third nuclear test last February. Apparently infuriated by fresh United Nations’ sanctions and joint South Korea-US military exercises, North Korea has spent weeks issuing blistering threats of missile strikes and a possible nuclear war. It is clear that UN sanctions have done little to soften North Korea’s belligerence.
Instead, its threats have increased, not waned. Grouped by former US President, George W. Bush, as part of the “axis of evil”, North Korea has remained defiant. Ironically, it was under the watch of Bush junior that North Korea tested its first nuclear device.
That seems to suggest that peace on the Korean Peninsula can be achieved through dialogue on denuclearization. We see a parallel between the latest crisis and that of 1994 when Pyongyang took a bellicose stance as it faced intense pressure over its nuclear programme.
However, the 1994 crisis was brought to a nervy end when ex-US president, Jimmy Carter, flew to North Korea and set the stage for a joint energy project that was considered an inspiration and a benchmark for many initiatives ever since. We urge that a similar diplomatic effort be put in place, notwithstanding the current defiance of the Korean leadership.
The international community should do more than it has done already to make North Korea understand that it has much to gain through peace, but much more to lose in a war situation, with its unpleasant consequences. Only last week, foreign ministers of G8 countries – the US, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Russia – at a meeting in London, flayed any attempt by North Korea to possess nuclear weaponry.
The problem is that any proliferation of nuclear arms, especially by fire-spitting nations like North Korea, might put countries on the Korean Peninsula and, indeed, the world at large, in harm’s way.
On several occasions in recent times, North Korea has said that it has moved at least two musudan missiles to its eastern coast. The untested missiles are believed to have a range of 3,500 km (2,180 miles), capable of reaching any target in South Korea, Japan and US military bases in the Pacific Island of Guam.
If intelligence reports to the effect that North Korea has been moving missiles in and out of a warehouse facility in an apparent bid to confuse foreign intelligence agencies are to be believed, UN inspectors should move in immediately to investigate these claims with a view to ensuring security of countries in the region, particularly South Korea and Japan.
With North Korea’s recent belligerent rhetoric on an imminent “thermo-nuclear war”, which it later followed up with an advice to foreign tourists and diplomats to leave its territory, that country remains clear danger that must be closely watched and properly handled to preserve peace in that part of the world.