Pyongyang’s Nuclear Development Hinders Peace on Korean Peninsula

Unless North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons program, a peace structure cannot be built up on the Korean Peninsula and its citizens’ lives will not improve. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who serves as general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, should be aware of this reality.

July 27 marked the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice.

The war, which began when North Korea launched a full-scale invasion of South Korea with an eye on unifying the two countries, lasted more than three years. During the fierce conflict, United Nations forces, led by U.S. troops, supported South Korea, while China, which dispatched the People’s Volunteer Army, sided with North Korea.

The devastating war resulted in more than 3 million deaths, and the division between Pyongyang and Seoul became entrenched. The dangerous military standoff between the North and the South continues even today.

Over the past 70 years, the international environment surrounding the Korean Peninsula has changed significantly.

The Cold War, which was the backdrop for the Korean War, ended, and in the 1990s, Seoul established diplomatic relations with Moscow and Beijing. South Korea has seen remarkable economic development.

Conversely, North Korea has turned its back on reforms and door-opening policies, and its citizens suffer from severe economic hardship. Unmistakably, this is because Pyongyang has prioritized the continuance of the Kim family’s dictatorship while opting to prop up the regime through the possession of nuclear weapons.

The administration of Kim Jong Un has striven to strengthen its nuclear and missile capabilities in the face of opposition from the international community, thus undermining regional and global stability.

China and Russia, which continue to support the North under such circumstances, bear a heavy responsibility.

From October 2006 until the end of 2017, the U.N. Security Council, including China and Russia, unanimously adopted 10 sanctions resolutions against North Korea. Since then, however, Beijing and Moscow have used their veto power, or threatened to use it, to block additional sanctions.

China and Russia each dispatched senior officials to North Korea to attend celebratory events related to the truce — Pyongyang refers to the armistice as a “victory.” This demonstration of unity with the North may be aimed at reining in Japan, the United States and South Korea, which have been strengthening cooperation.

The current situation, in which North Korea — with backing from China and Russia — continues to threaten Japan, the United States and South Korea, can be seen as a replay of the situation during the Korean War. It is obvious that Beijing and Moscow’s irresponsible responses have emboldened Pyongyang and increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The situation in North Korea illustrates the difficulties involved in persuading a nation pursuing a nuclear weapons program to give up such ambitions. Past denuclearization agreements, such as the 1994 U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework and a joint statement adopted after six-party talks in 2005, fell apart due to breaches of trust on North Korea’s part.

Pyongyang’s attempt to make the possession of nuclear weapons a fait accompli must not be tolerated. It is imperative for the international community, including China and Russia, to unite in maintaining and strengthening sanction-related pressure until North Korea steps forward to abandon its nuclear weapons.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 28, 2023)