Global bodies are rhetorically bled dry, but North Korea prevails

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metzlerBy John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS — A riveting Security Council session condemned North Korea for its Nuclear proliferation and illegal ballistic missile firings.

The meeting at the Ministerial level saw Foreign Ministers and delegates nearly universally condemn Pyongyang’s provocative actions which have brought the world to the brink of conflict. Now what?

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned, “The situation on the Korean Peninsula is the most tense and dangerous peace and security issue in the world today.”

North Korea’s Ambassador Ja Song-Nam takes the world’s condemnation in stride.

But after batteries of tough sanctions and seventeen contentious Security Council meetings this year, we are not really closer to solving the problem. The good news is we are still talking. The bad news is that diplomats are running out of rhetoric to condemn the quaintly-titled Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

As Secretary General Guterres said forcefully, “I am deeply concerned by the risk of military confrontation, including as a result of unintended escalation or miscalculation…the risk is being multiplied by misplaced over-confidence, dangerous narratives and rhetoric, and the lack of communication channels.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Council “North Korea claims to undertake its nuclear weapons program as an essential step for the survival of its regime. In making this choice, North Korea has made itself less secure.”

While stressing, “we do not seek, nor do we want, war with North Korea,” Secretary Tillerson added “our hope remains that diplomacy will produce a resolution…a sustained cessation of North Korea’s threatening behavior must occur before talks can begin. North Korea must earn its way back to the table.”

During 2017, North Korea carried out its sixth nuclear test and conducted 20 ballistic missile launches!

Beijing’s delegate conceded, the Korean Peninsula is “still in the shadow of the Cold War” and added, China is “opposed to conflict and chaos on the Korean Peninsula.”

France’s Ambassador Francois Delattre warned that in facing North Korean threats, “Inaction and weakness are not options.” He implored that despite the “dangerous downward spiral” we must “never close the door to dialogue.”

Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono who presided over the Special session later told correspondents, “We sent a clear message that we will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and that nuclear and missile development in flagrant violation of Security Council resolutions will never be tolerated. ”

As would be expected Pyongyang communists did not see the situation quite the same way. In a rare address to the Security Council North Korea’s Ambassador Ja Song-Nam spoke of the session as part of the “evil” collusion between Japan and the USA, boasting that the meeting was “none other than a desperate measure plotted by the U.S. being terrified by the incredible might of our Republic that has successfully achieved the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”

For good measure he added, “The DPRK, will march forward and make great advancement victoriously as world (sic) most powerful nuclear and military state.” And this is OK?

Interestingly despite the bombast, his speech did not include any of the characteristic accolades to dictator Kim Jong-Un.

In the midst of this rhetorical standoff there’s the jarring reality between North Korean nukes versus nutrition which has led to North Korea’s dire humanitarian situation. Secretary General Guterres reminded delegates that “Seventy per cent of the population of the DPRK is characterized as food insecure and 40 percent are malnourished.” This year’s aid requirements call for $114 million to meet requirements. Guterres advised, “This is only 30 per cent funded.”

Here’s the glaring contradiction between offering humanitarian aid to feed North Korea while at the same time the regime militarily threatens the world. Ironically, many of the DRRK’s humanitarian aid donors are among the states most threatened by Pyongyang’s nuclear proliferation and threats. Wonder why any enthusiasm towards helping the North is so tepid?

Regarding negotiations with the North, Secretary Tillerson told correspondents, “we are not going to accept preconditions… We do not accept any relaxing of the sanctions regime as a precondition of talks. We do not accept a resumption of humanitarian assistance as a precondition of talks. Our communication channels remain open. North Korea knows they’re open; they know where the door is; they know where to walk through that door when they want to talk.” Enough said!

So what to do? Given their nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, Pyongyang’s communists pose a clear and present danger to neighboring South Korea, Japan and the USA. The Trump Administration must tirelessly work with Seoul and Tokyo to defuse the threat.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014). [See pre-2011 Archives]

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