The recent nuclear test North Korea launched significantly deepens the concern for international security. The actors involved, South Korea, China, the U.S., the UN and the rest of the international community are all eyes and ears on the actions to follow, as the security remains frail and unstable.
On Tuesday, North Korea threatened South Korea with “final destruction” during a debate at the U.N Conference on Disarmament, saying it could take further steps than their nuclear test a couple of weeks ago. The tension between South Korea and North Korea has definitely heightened, especially with South Korea undergoing a transition in presidency.
The UN and U.S. have both continuously disapproved on North Korea’s nuclear tests. The North Korean threat provided justification not only for the UN to impose harder and stricter sanctions, but also for the U.S., Japan and South Korea to strengthen their defense capabilities and military activities, while strengthening their diplomatic ties with the U.S. in a manner that undermines China’s regional security priorities. As these alliances seem to provoke North Korea to react by testing more nuclear arsenals, China may seem to be the final hope in providing security in East Asia.
Despite being a long-term ally and a strategic friend of North Korea, China has consistently shown its disapproval of its neighbor’s nuclear test due to its fear of such activities bringing instability in the region. An unstable Kim Jong-Un’s regime might not only provoke a North Korean collapse, triggering a flood of refugees across China’s border, but also creating a power vacuum that could be filled by South Korea and the U.S.—posing a geographically proximate strategic challenge to China’s security.
Security is a major issue as well as a goal for all East Asian nations and the international community. However, the responsibility and solution regarding the issue do not lie solely in China’s hands. North Korea would probably wish to have lasting security as well—without succumbing to the wants and needs of the international community. China wants security to preserve its national power interests. The U.S. hopes to promote stability by dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program. South Korea hopes to dismantle nuclear programs and promote stability, which will eventually and hopefully lead to unification.
Military escalation, defensive threats and continuous joint-military practices are not the only way forward in Northeast Asia as it has been in the past. Each country needs to reflect on what has happened, what is happening and what will happen, then resume on diplomatic talks. The countries should continue diplomatic talks until the region is secure and stable.
Personally, I hope that such diplomacy will bring us one step closer to the stability and reunification. But looking at this pressing security issue at large, it seems that we have no other choice but to turn to diplomacy in order to avoid military conflict.