Kim Jong-un continues to resurface

Kim Jong-un continues to resurface

With the security crisis in Europe, in which Ukraine remains at the centre, another security crisis, not of Euro-Atlantic but of Asian nature, which has been neglected and relegated to the back burner, is becoming more and more vocal

After a brief lull in the Far East, where the strategic interests of the world’s leading powers – the United States, Russia and China as well as Japan, South Korea and a dozen Asian states – overlap, the problem of the Korean peninsula is combing its headlines.

It is the grandson and son of two glorious North Korean leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, who has once again become the perpetrator of this disturbance: leader, military leader and geopolitical director Kim Jong Un himself. Having rattled the US and its Indo-Pacific allies with a dozen or so missile tests since January this year, Kim Jong-un keeps reminding himself of himself. With enviable persistence, he does so so that instead of Ukraine, attention is finally turned to North Korea, living for so many years in a hostile environment, in the grip of international sanctions and a pre-war state.

The question of how to stop Kim has been hanging in the air at various international venues in New York, Washington, Tokyo and Seoul this week and has not found an answer.

“We cannot wait for the DPRK to carry out additional provocative and illegal acts, nuclear tests,” US Permanent Representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said during an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday over North Korean missile launches, urging all security council members to support a US draft resolution to toughen sanctions against Pyongyang. “Silence in the face of repeated missile launches only inspires Pyongyang”, – Linda Thomas-Greenfield resented.

However, the US draft resolution has proved categorically unacceptable to Russia and China, which are proposing their own draft resolution to ease sanctions on the DPRK.

“Unfortunately, so far the UNSC has only tightened restrictions, ignoring positive signals from North Korea. In this regard, the current development is largely a consequence of the short-sightedness of some colleagues present here who are not ready to go beyond the sanctions paradigm, which for many years has failed to guarantee security in the region”, – Anna Evstigneeva, Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, explained Moscow’s position.

“Sanctions, on the contrary, will only worsen the situation. What China wants to avoid is a nuclear test, so we don’t want additional sanctions. This will lead to one side taking more action,” China’s permanent representative to the UN, Zhang Jun, warned. “Negotiations are better than sanctions, coercive measures. We have seen so many coercive measures in the world – in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan. Have we seen positive results? We have only seen humanitarian suffering. The more sanctions, the more suffering,” Zhang Jun added, commenting on Thomas-Greenfield.

Recall that so far there have been 10 sanctions resolutions of the UN Security Council against North Korea.

North Korea is banned from almost all foreign trade and financial transactions. But where is the result? Can we say the Korean peninsula has become safer?

While the US initiated an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in connection with the latest North Korean missile launches, dated May 4 and 7, and demanded tougher sanctions, President Biden is discussing the North Korean issue with leaders from Southeast Asia during a special US-ASEAN summit being held in the US capital on May 12-13.

Against this backdrop, loud statements were also heard in Seoul, where the inauguration ceremony for South Korea’s new president, Yoon Seok-yeol, took place on May 10 and a reshuffle of the government is in full swing. Putting all of these remarks together, they do not seem to add up. In relation to North Korea, South Korean ministers are saying the opposite.

“We will act within a flexible harmony of principles and pragmatism rather than following a rigid course”, – the future integrator with the North promised in an address to the country’s parliament, calling for a resumption of inter-Korean dialogue.

As for the country’s new president, Yoon Seok-yeol, who officially took office on Wednesday, his statements are subject to interpretation by everyone. There is both toughness and gentleness in his statements, as well as threats and calls for dialogue. It remains to be seen how this fits together and whether it is possible.

In his inaugural speech, Yoon Seok-yeol, effectively echoing the words of US Permanent Representative to the Security Council Linda Thomas-Greenfield, expressed his belief that the development of North Korea’s nuclear missile programmes threatens not only the Korean peninsula, but also peace in Asia and the world.

In doing so, the new South Korean leader hinted: “The door for diplomacy will remain open so that we can solve the problem peacefully.” How to open that door? In his inaugural address, Yoon Seok-yeol suggested that Kim Jong-un should take the first step – first disarm, so that softness in Seoul and Washington’s stance takes precedence over hardness.

That raises the main question: Where is the guarantee that this will happen if Kim Jong-un suddenly takes the “tempting” offer and is not deceived?

The price of a mistake for Pyongyang could be the highest. Deprived of its own security, North Korea could become an easy target for the US, which has for decades been seeking regime-change in the “Juche country”, which has avoided the fate of Iraq and Libya by only keeping its powder dry.

The most high-profile launch this year was the March test launch of the Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile. Seoul and Tokyo estimate that it could have a range of 15,000 kilometres, which would cover all of US territory.

Based on satellite intelligence, both Seoul and Tokyo say in unison that North Korea could conduct a new nuclear test in the third tunnel of the Phunggye-ri test site in the coming days and weeks. This is expected to coincide with US President Joe Biden’s visits to South Korea and Japan scheduled for May 20-22.

All in all, the US “Operation Eun”, aimed at taming the North Korean leader, is clearly not adding up.

Kim Jong-un’s rockets are travelling farther and farther, and somewhere deep under the surface the atom of the “Juche country” that has been sitting behind the scenes is preparing to re-enter the geopolitical scene.

Sergey Strokan, RT

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