North Korea’s Reaction towards US’s Stance at the UN Security Council and Its Implications for Future Korea-US Relations
[Sejong Commentary] No.2019-33
Cheong Seong-chang (Vice President of Research Planning Division)
North Korea released an official statement on the 12th, condemning the US for convening a meeting at the UN Security Council the day before in order to discuss the possibility of North Korea’s further provocation.
The spokesman of North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that “Their (the US) insistence that they can launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at any time while banning us (North Korea) from simply testing weapons for the sake of national security clearly demonstrates their thief-like nature to disarm us completely.” However, such claim is far from the truth as the US was reluctant at the idea of levying further sanctions against North Korea, even when it violated the UN resolution.
Moreover, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintained that “Despite persistent demand of the US for strategic dialogue with North Korea, it is apparent that the US cannot offer anything that we wish to gain.” Regarding this statement, it is questionable whether North Korea suggested an alternative mean for negotiation with the US. Requiring the US to be the only party in providing effective means seems to be an unreasonable one-way demand.
North Korea asserted that it has “nothing to lose.” Yet, it is apparent that North Korean economy will face a serious backlash when it pushes ahead with its satellite or ICBM test launches before or after Christmas, and when the UN Security Council adopts a new sanction such as banning tourism or ceasing or reducing China’s oil export to North Korea. In this context, it is never a realistic option for North Korea to face against the US.
North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs also claimed that “the United States has done something foolish (“hitting itself in the foot with an ax”), and it has helped us (North Korea) make a definitive decision on which way to take.” Originally, however, the UN Security Council was scheduled to discuss North Korea’s human rights issues, something that the regime is highly sensitive about, and it was the US who changed the subject to North Korean missiles, in consideration of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s position.
Furthermore, Kelly Craft, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, made clear that the UN Security Council had no intention to condemn North Korea unilaterally, but was rather preparing itself to approach the North Korean issue with a higher flexibility. However, she made clear that in cases of apparent provocations, the UN Security Council will implement drastic measures.
North Korea may want to launch its new satellite in the final month of the last year of the decade in order to prove its satellite power and to welcome the year 2020 amidst a festive mood. With no further progress in denuclearization, however, such scenario will quickly usher in tougher sanctions from the UN Security Council, threatening the regime’s stability.
Currently, the North Korean foreign ministry is busy justifying its strategic decision to declare “The New Road of North Korea,” hoping to strengthen its leverage in the international society with a nuclear power. However, that the “New Road” will consequently pull down the curtain of the era of detente between the US and North Korea, which had been formed due to two rounds of US-North Korea summit in the past. Eventually, the two countries will return to their initial positions when they were nothing but apparent adversaries to each other.
Of course, narrowing the gap between the two countries just by peaceful dialogues will be a difficult task. However, it is not rational for North Korea to give up its diplomatic channel and choose to confront the US face-to-face. It is highly recommended that North Korea immediately choose the path of pragmatic dialogue instead of isolating itself by choosing the “New Road.”
At the same time, both governments of South Korea and the United States should aim to form diplomatic dialogues that are more direct and pragmatic in nature by postponing the ROK-US Combined Forces Command Training for a year, under the conditions that North Korea halt its test launch of nuclear missiles, Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM), Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM), and satellites.
Furthermore, when Stephen Biegun, the US Special Representative for North Korea visits South Korea, it seems appropriate for South Korea and the US to cooperate on resuming the four-party talks in order to derive China’s active support in denuclearization of North Korea. Finally, when President Moon officially invites China to join in the four-party talks at the Korea-China summit this December, China would readily join in.
Once denuclearization talks switch from a bilateral talk to a four-party talk comprising China and South Korea, North Korea will be taken aback as it planned to strengthen its leverage as a nuclear power. Ultimately, it will weaken North Korea’s pretext of stepping up to the “New Road,” enabling the formation of newly designed talks and negotiations for 2020.
※ Translator’s note: This is a summarized unofficial translation of the original paper which was written in Korean. All references should be made to the original paper.
※ This article is written based on the author’s personal opinions and does not reflect the views of the Sejong Institute.