China reiterates it will not allow war or instability on Korean Peninsula

China will not allow war or instability on the Korean Peninsula, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Saturday. “The Korean Peninsula is right on China’s doorstep. We have a red line, that is, we will not allow war or instability on the Korean Peninsula,” Wang said at a press conference.

“I believe this is also fully in the interest of the South and North of the peninsula and in the common interest of the whole region,” Wang added.

The minister also called for an early resumption of the six-party talks. “If I may use some metaphors, I believe, we need to climb a slope, remove a stumbling block and follow the right way.” Describing the nuclear issue as the “crux of the matter,” Wang said, “First, we need climb the slope of denuclearization. Only with denuclearization can the Korean Peninsula have genuine and lasting peace.”

Secondly, the parties need to work hard to remove the stumbling block of mutual mistrust, said Wang. There is serious lack of mutual trust between the parties, especially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States, he added.

Third, the parties must follow the right way forward, which is dialogue, said Wang, pointing to the six-party talks as “the only dialogue mechanism acceptable to all the parties. … As the host country, we hope there can be an early resumption of the six-party talks. Some dialogue is better than none, and better early than later.”

[Xinhua]

North Korea seeks talks without preconditions to ease tensions

North Korea’s top diplomat said Tuesday that the U.S. must accept its offer for dialogue without preconditions if it wants to ease tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula. He drew a quick rebuttal from his South Korean counterpart, who said the international community has made clear that Pyongyang must give up its nuclear ambitions if it wants better relations.

The Koreas were among 27 nations at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Brunei, where the North’s nuclear weapons program was a key topic, along with other hot-button regional issues.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the U.S., South Korea, Japan and China – North Korea’s chief ally – were “absolutely united” in their insistence on a denuclearized North Korea. Washington says Pyongyang must move in that direction before it will agree to talks, but North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun said during the conference Tuesday that it is America that must act.

“The U.S. must positively respond to our sincere and courageous decision (to offer talks) without preconditions if it is truly interested in ending the vicious circle of intensifying tension on the Korean Peninsula and safeguarding peace and stability,” Pak said, according to North Korean delegation official Choe Myong Nam.

Pak said that “a touch-and-go situation in which a war can break out anytime is fostered” on the Korean Peninsula, and that U.S. hostility against the North was primarily responsible for that.

Shortly after Choe spoke, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told reporters that most diplomats at the forum expressed a “very strong message” to the North Korean delegation that Pyongyang must scrap its nuclear program and refrain from launching another provocation. “So they must have listened to this message very, very seriously,” he said.

On Tuesday, senior North Korean nuclear strategist and First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan left for Russia. Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov as saying he’ll meet with Kim in Moscow on Thursday to discuss the possibility of resuming the six-party talks.

The nuclear disarmament talks – which involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia – have been stalled since North Korea quit the negotiations in 2009 to protest international condemnation over a rocket launch.

AP

The North Korean license to provoke

If North Korea’s latest cycle of misdeeds, followed by international censure, followed by menacing words out of Pyongyang has a familiar ring to it, it is because this behavior has become a fixture of the accordion-like rhythm of Northeast Asian security. But a familiar path is not the same thing as a prudent one. It would be a mistake to let North Korea’s young leader think he has inherited the family license to provoke with immunity.

On January 22, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2087. The resolution strengthens existing sanctions, curbing the travel and potentially the finances of the agencies and senior officials responsible for the rocket launch.

The resolution leaves open a diplomatic path. It encourages North Korea to rejoin Six Party Talks with China, Russia, South Korea, Japan and the United States, aimed at realizing Pyongyang’s official pledge of September 19, 2005, to move toward total denuclearization. But the U.N. measure also signals a “significant determination” to impose harsher measures in the event of a third nuclear test.

Pyongyang’s verbal reaction to sanctions has been swift and purposeful. Declaring sanctions to be tantamount to “a declaration of war,” North Korea is threatening further missile and nuclear tests. Invective is conveniently aimed at the North’s “sworn enemy” the United States, as the Obama administration transitions its national security team for a second term.

Just as South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye seeks to instigate a more peaceful inter-Korean relationship, the North Korean regime appears to quash that initiative before it gets off the ground. Kim Jong Un himself may be threatened by the mere prospect of a summit with South Korea’s Iron Lady.

Despite a well-trodden history of provocation, sanction and threat, the North’s latest threats should not be sloughed off as insignificant. North Korea’s next nuclear test may well pave the way for a sizeable expansion of its nuclear arsenal. Beyond the obvious goal of regime survival, burgeoning nuclear and missile programs may be changing North Korea’s tolerance for risk.

In sum, although North Korea is taking the world down a familiar path, key officials need to ask anew whether the familiar path is still the best one.

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