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North Korea's Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump
North Korea's Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump|Photo credit: National Post
Write-In

Kim On The Rampage, Trump Patient And Optimistic

The US is firm on denuclearisation but North Korea ups the ante

TP Sreenivasan

TP Sreenivasan

The latest reports from the UN on Korea are confusing to say the least.

An initiative taken by some Europeans and others to authorise the UN Security Council to hold a meeting on 10 December 2019 to discuss the human rights situation in North Korea has been abandoned as the United States has changed its mind and refused to sign a letter that would have authorised the UN Security Council to hold a meeting. The Council does not have the minimum number of nine votes to support the move.

The US position is astonishing as the US has always favoured human rights issues being brought up at the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against erring nations. It had even proposed that the Human Rights Council should be given the power to take action against nations which violate human rights.

North Korea’s belligerence has not only scuttled moves for peace on the Peninsula, but it has also embarked on a number of military moves, which are contrary to the tentative moves for denuclearisation.

North Korea has carried out 13 ballistic missile launches since May and said on 08 December 2019 that it had performed a “very important test” at its long-range rocket launch site. This sparked wide speculation that the test involved a new engine for either a space launch vehicle or a long-range missile. Although this is not a human rights issue, the US has not hesitated to use any stick to beat the North Koreans.

North Korean UN Ambassador Kim Song sent a letter to all 14 council members except the US on December 04 warning that holding a meeting on its human rights would be “another serious provocation” resulting from America’s “hostile policy.” Kim said a meeting would increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the North would “respond strongly to the last.”

A US State Department spokesperson, asked about the human rights meeting, said the US Mission to the United Nations will seek a council discussion this week including “a comprehensive update on recent developments on the Korean Peninsula including recent missile launches and the possibility of an escalatory provocation” by North Korea. The sudden decision of the US to drop the idea has intrigued the world at a time when the peace moves have been sabotaged by North Korea.

President Donald Trump had warned that North Korea had “everything” to lose through hostility towards the United States, after Pyongyang reported a “very important test” at a rocket launch site.

“Kim Jong-un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way,” Trump tweeted. “He signed a strong Denuclearisation Agreement with me in Singapore,” Trump continued. “He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the US Presidential Election in November.

North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, has tremendous economic potential, but it must denuclearise as promised. NATO, China, Russia, Japan, and the entire world is unified on this issue!”

But when it came to convening a Security Council, the US developed cold feet.

The extraordinary scenes that the world witnessed of cycles of rapprochement and despair between the North and the South and alternative signs of bellicosity and détente between the US and North Korea have been most dramatic.

The sophisticated President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, appeared to guide two maverick leaders of the US and North Korea to peace, bringing President Moon close to a Nobel Peace Prize. Though the summits themselves appeared successful initially, it is now clear that the situation is back to square one.

The threat arising from North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs has not disappeared, nor has there been any improvement in peace and security in North East Asia.

China, the North’s most important ally, has cooperated in enforcing strict sanctions in an attempt to temper its partner’s bravado, but ultimately China prefers the status quo to the instability that would follow radical change. This might be a crucial factor that inhibits progress in the negotiations.

President Kim Jong-un has risen in stature on account of the summits he has held with the US President, but he has kept all his options open.

For him denuclearisation means withdrawal of the US forces from the Peninsula and Japan, while for the US and its allies, it simply means the elimination of the nuclear capability of North Korea.

Further, Washington is not even considering lifting of sanctions unless the denuclearisation of North Korea takes place.

North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations said denuclearisation was now off the negotiating table with the US and lengthy talks with Washington were not needed.

Ambassador Kim Song said America’s desire for “sustained and substantial dialogue” was a “timesaving trick” to benefit a “domestic political agenda”.

The North Korean diplomat accused the Europeans – France, Germany, Britain, Belgium, Poland and Estonia – of playing “the role of pet dog of the United States in recent months.”

“We regard their behaviour as nothing more than a despicable act of intentionally flattering the United States,” the ambassador said.

The comments came as an end-of-year deadline for the countries to reach a denuclearisation deal inches closer. Ri Thae Song, a North Korean vice foreign minister handling US affairs, said in a statement last week that Trump was running out of time to salvage the negotiations. “What is left to be done now is the US option and it is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get,” Ri said.

But President Trump sounds patient and optimistic, bearing in mind the elections ahead. He is aware that no major decision is possible before the elections.

“I have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un,” Mr Trump told reporters recently. “I think we both want to keep it that way. He knows I have an election coming up. I don’t think he wants to interfere with that. He’s somebody I’ve gotten along with very well for three years,” he added.

President Kim appears to be on the rampage at the end of the year, while President Trump maintains his optimism in spite of provocations. The world awaits with bated breath.