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Solution to peninsula nuclear issue lies with Washington

By Hu Mingyuan/An Ping | China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-17 07:13

The Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the US, December 4, 2019. [Xinhua]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will visit the Republic of Korea on Wednesday, once again putting the global spotlight on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, especially since Blinken has said that the new US administration plans to conduct a comprehensive review of the policies toward the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and find ways to increase pressure on Pyongyang in order to bring it back to the negotiating table.

But in response to the White House claiming it had not received any reply to its outreach to Pyongyang, Kim Yo-jong, a senior DPRK official, warned the Joe Biden administration against "causing a stink at its first step" on Monday.

During the 8th national congress of the Workers' Party of Korea in January, top DPRK leader Kim Jong-un emphasized that the country will further strengthen the defense forces to counter foreign military threats and maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. Kim attributed the decision to strengthen the military to the US' hostile policies toward the DPRK, saying DPRK-US relations can improve only if the Washington abandons its hostile policies toward Pyongyang.

From the historic meeting between Kim and former US president Donald Trump in Singapore in 2018 that produced four commitments from both sides to the Panmunjom meeting that further raised hopes of the resolution of the nuclear issue, the DPRK-US talks have gone through many twists and turns over the past years, with the failed working-level talks between the two sides in Stockholm, Sweden, casting a shadow over the prospects of such a solution.

Despite the DPRK demolishing tunnels at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and dismantling the Tongchang-ri missile test site, the US didn't honor its promise of lifting sanctions against the country and instead increased them.

The US' strategy, it seems, is still intent on putting maximum pressure on the DPRK through economic and military means, and then using non-military tactics to resolve the nuclear issue.

Under this strategy, the US will neither abandon the political means or dialogue channels to resolve the issue nor will it change its demand for complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the DPRK before removing sanctions. The US had said it would reward the DPRK if the latter gave up its nuclear weapons program and slap tougher sanctions if it reneges on its commitments.

The US' "extreme pressure" policy has made it difficult to peacefully resolve the peninsula nuclear issue. In fact, it has put the entire peace process in jeopardy.

At the core of the nuclear issue is the national security of the DPRK and the key to addressing it lies with the US.

The US abandoning hostility toward the DPRK is a precondition for resolving the nuclear issue. By abandoning its hostile policies and signing a peace agreement, the US will guarantee national security to the DPRK and thus prevent it from citing excuses to develop nuclear weapons.

At present, the DPRK-US talks are deadlocked due to fundamental differences between the two sides on the concept, scope and standards of, and the means, steps and timeframe needed for denuclearization. The DPRK wants to sign a declaration with the US and the Republic of Korea to end the Korean War on the condition that the US lifts the sanctions before Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear facilities in a "phased and synchronized manner" on way to fully denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

The US, however, insists that it will withdraw the sanctions only after the DPRK dismantles its nuclear facilities and agrees to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

The DPRK has revived its nuclear weapons program mainly out of the fear that the US may not honor its commitment after it abandons the nuclear program, and instead continue with its hostile policies, even use military means to fulfill its goals. The US, on its part, insists the DPRK abandon its nuclear program, mainly because it fears the country may refuse to give up its nuclear weapons once the sanctions are lifted.

The lack of trust between the leaders of the two countries is not conducive to maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula, in particular, because the US' desperate efforts to use sanctions and military power as deterrence against the DPRK have failed to force the country to shelve its nuclear program.

The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the building of a peace mechanism should be simultaneously pursued. Specifically, China, the US, Russia, Japan, the DPRK and the ROK should resume the Six-Party Talks to resolve the nuclear issue, while China, Russia, the US and Japan should together provide security guarantees for the two Koreas. However, these cannot be achieved if the US tries to strengthen its alliance with Japan and the ROK, citing the threat from China and the DPRK.

To show its sincerity, the US should withdraw its hostile policies and sanctions against the DPRK, rather than paying lip service to regional peace. It should bear in mind that the simultaneous approach to peace will remove the DPRK's concerns over national security and allay the US' fears about a possible nuclear attack by Pyongyang.

Hu Mingyuan is a professor of and researcher on Korean studies at the Dalian Minzu University, and An Ping is a master's degree student in the university.

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