N.Korea missile test a needless provocation - GulfToday

N.Korea missile test a needless provocation

North-Korea-750

The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

No one seems to know in which direction the US-North Korean denuclearisation negotiations are heading.

The test-firing by Pyongyang of two new short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday has cast fresh doubts on efforts to restart the stalled denuclearisation talks as agreed by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after they met at the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas last month.

South Korea, which supports efforts by North Korea and the United States to end years of hostility, views the tests as a military threat on the Korean peninsula, and rightly so.

North Korea’s first weapons launches in more than two months appear like pressure-tactics and certainly is a needless provocation.

North Korea is banned by UN Security Council resolutions from engaging in any launch using ballistic technology.

However, it’s unlikely for the North, already under 11 rounds of UN sanctions, to be hit with fresh punitive measures because the UN council has normally imposed new sanctions only when the North conducted long-range ballistic launches, not short-range ballistic launches.

The crippling sanctions — imposed earlier by the United Nations and countries such as the US — include attempt to halt the trade in luxury goods as a way of targeting the country’s elite.

North Korea’s exports to China, its main market, dropped nearly 90 per cent last year, according to data from Beijing, and a recent report by the Korea Development Institute said sanctions had put the country on a path for economic crisis.

In recent months Pyongyang has also slammed Trump’s top aides — National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — and demanded their removal from talks.

Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have proceeded for decades, with no sustaining success in halting the North’s atomic weapons programme.

In 2017, Pyongyang launched its sixth and largest nuclear test since it began its programme in 2006, angering the world community.

The following year, Trump and Kim met in Singapore, signing a joint statement vowing to pursue peace and complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

The two met again in February 2018, but disagreements over sanction and denuclearisation scuttled the summit.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho are expected to meet on the sidelines of a Southeast Asian security forum in Bangkok next week. However, indications are that Ri has cancelled his trip to the conference.

Pyongyang has been sharply criticising the upcoming joint military drills by US and South Korean troops.

There are close to 30,000 US troops stationed in South Korea, and their annual manoeuvres with tens of thousands of South Korean soldiers have always infuriated Pyongyang, which views them as provocative rehearsals for invasion.

North Korea’s foreign ministry even accused Washington this month of breaking a promise by holding military exercises with South Korea.

North Korean state media published pictures this week of Kim inspecting a new submarine, fuelling concerns that Pyongyang was pushing ahead with a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) programme.

What is apparent is that the “excellent relationship” between Trump and Kim has failed to yield the desired results so far on the denuclearisation front.

While any attempt to achieve peace through dialogue should be wholeheartedly welcomed, it is not easy to erase persisting doubts about the future of the negotiations and the North’s willingness to give up its stockpile of nuclear weapons, especially considering Pyongyang’s maverick behaviour so far.