Opinion / Chen Weihua

US should make concessions to denuclearize Peninsula

By Chen Weihua (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2017-08-17 13:49

US should make concessions to denuclearize Peninsula

A Japan Ground Self Defense Force's Type 90 tank fires during their joint exercise, named Northern Viper 17, with US Marine Corps at Hokudaien exercise area in Eniwa, on the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan, August 16, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

Many people have heaved a sigh of relief after the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea dialed down their rhetoric over the past few days.

US President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday that "Kim Jong-un of North Korea made a very wise and well-reasoned decision. The alternative would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable." It came after the DPRK said it will assess "the foolish and stupid conduct" of the US before firing missiles towards Guam.

Trump alarmed the world on Aug 8 by saying that the DPRK best not make any more threats to the US or "will be met with fire and fury". The DPRK responded by saying it planned to fire four missiles into the waters off Guam.

The war of words caused grave concern, especially in East Asia. Given the powerful weaponry today, any war would be disastrous to the region, especially the two Koreas.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis tried to clarify Trump administration's conflicting messages in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday. In the article, they said the US has no interest in regime change and no desire to inflict harm on the people in the DPRK.

Such words, however welcoming, ring hollow though, if they are not backed by credible policies and actions. Or they might be overruled by just a tweet from Trump. For instance, the US has an obligation to convince DPRK that it indeed seeks no regime change. After all, it was the US' removal of Libya leader Muammar Gadhafi in 2011 after he gave up his nuclear weapons, and the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 for alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction that has ruined the credibility of the US government.

Mattis and Tillerson are right to say that China has a strong incentive to pursue the same goals as the US – the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula – but they are wrong to think that China can exercise decisive diplomatic and economic leverage over the DPRK.

If China cuts the trade relations with DPRK not prohibited by the UN Security Council, it will inflict enormous harm on the DPRK people and destabilize the region – exactly things that Mattis and Tillerson said they have no intention of doing.

China has made it clear that it will only observe sanctions imposed by the UN and won't observe sanctions unilaterally imposed by the US. The unilateral sanctions reflect US disrespect for the UN by literally saying that it will respect the UN process only when it goes along with the US, otherwise it will ignore it.

The US is also trying to dodge its own responsibility by pushing China to the fore on the issue. The key to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula lies not with China but the US and the DPRK, which are so far unwilling to talk to each other.

It's regrettable to see the US, while seeking China's help, is unwilling to accept the Beijing's "dual suspension" proposal – the DPRK halts nuclear tests while the US and the Republic of Korea halt their large military drills – or sign a peace treaty to end the armistice reached 64 years ago.

If it could lead to a possible solution to such a critical issue, why not give it a try? Yes. Past talks have failed, yet that does not mean future talks will fail or fail completely.

The US itself should be ready to make more compromise as a superpower if it is genuine in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA. chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com

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