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Never had security over the Korean Peninsula attracted so much international attention until the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously July 15 for a resolution denouncing North Korea’s ballistic-missile tests. Two days later, the Group of Eight summit held in St. Petersburg, Russia, issued a chairman’s statement demanding that North Korea halt its missile tests and abandon its nuclear weapons programs.

Although the international community showed its unity in condemning North Korea, major players at the Security Council wrangled behind the scenes. All this shows that the Peninsula remains geopolitically important as a link between Eurasia and the Pacific Ocean.

A Japanese-proposed resolution calling for sanctions against North Korea under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter was revised due to opposition by China and Russia, which wanted to maintain friendly relations with the North. China threatened to veto the measure if it came to a vote.

China initially tried to avert a crisis with a nonbinding statement from the Security Council president. But facing strong pressure from Japan and the United States, it was forced to agree to a resolution condemning North Korea.

Since it did get the Chapter 7 sanctions dropped, China, a permanent member of the Security Council, has a heavy responsibility to see that North Korea abides by the resolution. Russia, which hosted the G8 summit for the first time, has a similar obligation.

China and Russia probably realize now if they remain soft on North Korea, they will never curtail its bad conduct in international relations.

The latest saga likely surprised the Roh administration in South Korea, which has kept a distance from Japan and the U.S. at the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear-arms development. South Korea’s engagement policy toward the North has been seriously undermined by the missile tests. Seoul should again strengthen its ties with Tokyo and Washington.

The G8 statement expressed support for the U.N. resolution on North Korea and, for the first time, called for a comprehensive settlement on its missile programs, nuclear ambitions and kidnapping of foreign nationals. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi played a leading role at the summit, contributing to its success.

At a G8 news conference, Koizumi said North Korea probably did not expect the unanimous Security Council support for the resolution. He said North Korea should seriously accept this message.

Pyongyang, however, seems to have opted for further isolation from the international community. In a Foreign Ministry statement, the North said it will continue missile tests “as part of its efforts to strengthen self-defense deterrents.”

It apparently has no intention of observing the 1999 agreement with the U.S. to impose a moratorium on missile tests or the 2002 Pyongyang declaration, signed by Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, to continue the moratorium.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry statement added that “If anyone intends to dispute or add pressure about this, we will have to take stronger physical actions in other forms.” Some experts warn that North Korea may conduct nuclear tests. Its diplomatic problems lie in its apparent belief that brinkmanship will help prolong the Kim regime’s survival.

North Korea has declared it will not be bound by the Pyongyang declaration, joint statements issued at the six-party talks or other international agreements. It is doubtful whether Pyongyang is aware that brinkmanship will not work and will only stir international demands for sanctions.

North Korea, which reportedly has deployed about 100 Rodong missiles with a range of 1,300 km, poses an immediate threat to Japan. North Korea has said it possesses nuclear weapons and if it succeeds in building small nuclear warheads, Pyongyang could pose a real threat of nuclear attack against Japan.

Japan maintains a strictly defensive security policy. Under the Japan-U.S. security system, Japan plays the role of the shield, with the U.S. serving as the sword. In the past 10 years, Japan and the U.S. have overhauled the bilateral defense system, revising the guidelines for defense cooperation. Japan has established a legal system for dealing with contingencies in areas surrounding Japan and with an emergency situation at home in the event of an attack on Japan.

These measures were adopted to deal with North Korea’s military threat following its firing of Rodong missiles in 1993, nuclear crises in 1993-94 and the Taepodong-1 missile launch in 1998.

Japan is moving to expedite the development of a missile defense system and boost its defense in other ways to deal with North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

The recent North Korean missile tests prompted Japan to implement a nine-point package of sanctions against North Korea, including a ban on port calls by the North Korean ship Mangyongbong. Following the adoption of the U.N. resolution, Japan is moving to implement additional financial sanctions against the North.

Hitoshi Tanaka, a former deputy foreign minister who set up the summit between Koizumi and Kim, has been saying Japan should take a leading role in solving the Korean Peninsula issues by taking advantage of the strong Japan-U.S. alliance and international cooperation.

Japan did achieve a measure of diplomatic success with the Security Council resolution and the G8 statement.

“Results are everything” in diplomacy,” Tanaka says. “Strong political leadership is essential to negotiations to achieve diplomatic successes. It will be a serious challenge for the successor of Koizumi, due to step down in September as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and as prime minister.

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