Keep door of diplomacy open on N.Korea - GulfToday

Keep door of diplomacy open on N.Korea

Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong-UN

North Korea is angry and anger is one letter short of danger.

The beginning of joint exercises between the US and South Korea has infuriated Pyongyang so much that it has threatened to carry out more weapons tests, even after it fired its fourth pair of projectiles in less than two weeks.

North Korea has also accused the United States of inciting military tension by holding the joint exercises and has vowed to take measures to defend itself.

Pyongyang has always been incensed by military exercises between the South and the US, seeing them as rehearsals for invasion, but in the past it has tended to avoid carrying out missile tests while the war games were taking place.

The series of missile tests raises the stakes for the US and South Korean diplomats criss-crossing the region in the hope of restarting talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

The United States, on its part, is watching the North Korean missile tests very carefully, as pointed out by Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton to Fox News Channel.

“It looks like it’s a testing series that they want to get this missile fully operational,” Bolton, speaking from Peru’s capital Lima, said about the North Korean missile launches over the past two weeks.

Things, as they look, are not moving in the right direction.

Bonton’s words seem to imply that: “They appear to be ballistic missiles. The president and Kim Jong Un have an understanding that Kim Jong Un is not going to launch longer range, intercontinental range ballistic missiles, and so I think the president is watching this very, very carefully.”

The latest launches came after the South Korean and US militaries began mainly computer-simulated exercises to test Seoul’s ability to take operational control in wartime.

Less than an hour after the North’s weapons test, an official of its foreign ministry said the drills were “an undisguised denial and a flagrant violation” of the diplomatic process between Pyongyang, Washington and Seoul.

Trump had last week downplayed the North Korean launches, saying Kim Jong Un would not want to “disappoint” him.

Despite a recent lack of progress in nuclear diplomacy, both Trump and Kim have said they have maintained good relations with each other.

The two leaders held a historic summit in Singapore last year, where the North made a vague pledge on denuclearisation, and a second summit in Hanoi this February broke up amid disagreements over sanctions relief and what Pyongyang might be willing to give up in return.

The two agreed to resume nuclear talks during their impromptu June meeting in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula, but that working-level dialogue has yet to begin.

In a way, it is good that Washington has not overreacted and pushed to a situation where diplomacy is closed off.

North Korea has defied years of isolation to develop its arsenal and has not given up any of its weapons, while proving itself adept at dragging out discussions.

Pyongyang should realise that repeated firing of missiles would not take it anywhere.

The nuclear issue is too serious to be lost in the din of allegations and counter-allegations. North Korea carried out six nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017.

All parties should stop the blame game and see to it that the goal of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula is achieved. Any other path could prove catastrophic.