Commentary: Sanctions alone inadequate to denuclearize Korean Peninsula

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-12 08:07:22|Editor: liuxin
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by Xinhua writer Liu Chang

BEIJING, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- If history provides any lessons on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, it is that hoping to sanction Pyongyang out of its nuclear weapons program has so far generally disappointing or barely gratifying at best.

The UN Security Council endorsed late Monday further and tougher punitive measures against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) over its sixth nuclear test earlier this month, the country's most powerful blast to date.

The new sanctions dropped an oil embargo listed in a previous draft, and demand a ban on DPRK's textile exports that worth some 800 million U.S. dollars and are the country' s second-biggest export after coal.

For the records, it is the eighth time for the United Nations to slap sanctions on Pyongyang since it carried out the first underground nuclear explosion in 2006.

However, throughout the decade and more, the nuclear crisis in the peninsula seems to have been deeply trapped by an endless loop in which nuclear and missile tests trigger tougher sanctions and tougher sanctions invite further tests.

Ahead of the UN voting on Monday, the DPRK warned in a foreign ministry statement that it is ready to respond to any new sanctions by using "any form of ultimate means."

Given the fact that, despite all these years of sanctions, Pyongyang now claims it has successfully developed a thermonuclear hydrogen bomb that could be attached to an intercontinental missile, it is expected that the possibility for Pyongyang to give in to the latest round of punitive bans is tragically low, while chances for even more test-shoots and nuclear blasts are helplessly high.

The time now has come for some members of the international community, notably Washington, to have a more realistic and comprehensive approach in defusing the nuclear tensions in the peninsula.

Since becoming the U.S. president, Donald Trump and his national security team has landed onto the world stage with a seemingly stronger resolve and sense of urgency to curb and kill DPRK's nuclear program.

The Trump White House has officially announced an end to former U.S. President Barack Obama's so-called policy of strategic patience towards Pyongyang, shifted to what is known as "strategic strangulation" by mounting pressure on the Northeast Asian country, and refuse to negotiate with Pyongyang.

By rejecting diplomatic engagement, the Trump administration is repeating a mistake that has been passed down from one U.S president to another in recent history.

For the moment, nobody would argue that sanctioning Pyongyang is an off-target shot, yet it is certainly not the whole picture. The ultimate goal of these moves should be to bring the country back to the negotiating table so that all sides concerned can sit together to settle the terms that can actually freeze or terminate DPRK's nuclear plans, and ensure a lasting and sustainable peace in the region.

To jumpstart such talks would be very hard as the level of trust deficits between Pyongyang and Washington is sadly low, and seems to wax as the Trump administration tends to issue mixed messages from time to time.

On one hand, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson promised that his country is not seeking a regime change in the DPRK and stressed "peaceful pressure," while on the other hand Trump would hint military options at times.

The game of playing good cop and bad cop simply would only be counterproductive in this highly-charged region that struggles to keep a delicate balance on a thin ice.

It is therefore advised that Washington seriously consider switching its policy of isolation to communication as any extra pressure the DPRK cannot withstand could result in a possible nuclear catastrophe all would suffer terribly.