by Nayana Das
In an alarming development last week, North Korea demonstrated its ballistic missile capabilities by launching two mid-range missiles, a move which makes global observers very nervous. South Korean Defense Ministry alleges that North Korea also test-fired 30 short-range rockets on Saturday, the umpteenth addition to a series of tests conducted this year. Marie Harf, State Department spokeswoman, said yesterday that these launches were “a troubling and provocative escalation that the United States takes very seriously”. Clearly, the North has wasted no time in intensifying its nuclear weapons programme, especially its pursuit of ICBMs.
This comes at a time when the heads of states of USA, Japan and South Korea met in Hague for trilateral discussions on the North’s nuclear threats and steps needed to meet them. It makes us question: how has American diplomacy become so ineffective viz-a-viz Pyongyang? Since 1994, the U.S. has attempted to get the North to dismantle its nuclear programme, but, to no effect! At the beginning of this year, President Obama clearly made known his long-term goal of “reducing- and safeguarding- the world’s stockpile of fissile material”, in an earnest effort to minimize risks of proliferation. Current developments seem to prove, however, that maybe the working relationship which Washington has established with the North in this regard is ineffective, to say the least.
Foreign policy experts opine that Washington needs to engage more intensively with the North and revive productive talks. The need for a more concrete channel has been felt. A joint report from two prominent think tanks, National Security Network and the National Committee on North Korea, has urged Washington to “support South Korea’s proposal to establish a multilateral forum that would include North Korea and enable dialogue”.
Earlier this week, when Obama met with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, he proclaimed that deepening coordination among the three were essential for dealing with North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. “Over the last five years, close coordination between our three countries has sent a strong signal to Pyongyang that its provocations and threats will bemet with a unified response,” he said. This meeting, it is hoped, will send an important messageto the North and encourage Pyongyang to reconsider talks for denuclearization.
Pyongyang, on the other hand, has condemned U.S. initiatives as hostile and deputy UN ambassador- Ri Tong Il- sent a warning recently that as long as the U.S. continues with its “nuclear blackmails”, North Korea will continue to take “additional measures in order to demonstrate the power of the self-defensive nuclear deterrent.” Meanwhile, hopes at Capitol Hill are flying high. Eliot Engel, senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee reiterated that the United States will remain committed to the goal of denuclearizing North Korea- “We should not give up on diplomacy, because that would mean tacit acceptance of a nuclear North Korea”.