Cracking down on Pyongyang is much tougher than it sounds. Here’s why.
1. Sanctions – Much of the talk about North Korean sanctions comes from Seoul and Washington, but it’s Beijing that holds most of the cards. While additional sanctions will hurt, North Korea has long been economically insulated by its relationship with China, its northern neighbor and main trade partner, which fears that strict sanctions could undermine the Pyongyang government, unleashing chaos. While North Korea’s economic isolation and the international financial system make it tricky to identify sanction targets and prove violations, new US legislation could hit companies in China that deal with the North, including those that buy its main exports — coal and minerals.
2. Diplomacy – Is North Korea a nuclear state? That question has largely paralyzed major diplomatic efforts on the Korean Peninsula for years. The main diplomatic forum to try to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program, the so-called six-party talks, hasn’t met since 2008. Some in the international community now believe that North Korea will never abandon its nuclear program, and say the only way to negotiate with the North is to accept it as a nuclear power and work on a freeze, and then gradual arms reductions. But with Washington steadfastly refusing to accept North Korea as a nuclear state — and North Korea steadfastly insisting it is one — diplomacy remains frozen.
3. Military response – What about simply erasing North Korea’s weapons programs, launching missiles to destroy its weapons facilities? Since the 1950s, South Korea and the United States have wrestled — both internally and sometimes with each other — over how to respond to North Korean aggressions. Again and again, the decision has been made to avoid military action. The immense danger on the Korean Peninsula is that any military response from the South could quickly spiral into all-out war. And with nearly half of South Korea’s 50 million people living in or around Seoul — just 50 kilometers (35 miles) from the border and within range of the North’s artillery batteries —— Pyongyang could inflict immense damage on its rival in just minutes. The potential risks are simply too high.
[Times of India]