Washington has ratcheted up pressure on Pyongyang recently. US President Donald Trump tweeted earlier that the US paid massive amounts of money to North Korea for 25 years but achieved nothing, concluding "only one thing will work!" US Defense Secretary James Mattis on Monday required the US Army to stand ready for military options while the president is seeking diplomatic solutions to the Pyongyang issue.
Washington and Pyongyang have been intensifying hostile and threatening rhetoric against each other for some time. Their frequent saber-rattling, unimaginable in the past, is escalating tensions in Northeast Asia. This is worrying. Both the US and North Korea are believed to have strengthened their combat readiness. In such an extreme atmosphere, it is easy to trigger a fatal misjudgment.
That the Pyongyang nuclear crisis has escalated to this point is unexpected, with all concerned parties suffering losses. Washington's aid and Seoul's investments in North Korea both came to no avail. The UN sanctions have impacted China, North Korea's largest trading partner.
The issue has had domino effects. South Korea has used it as an excuse to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system, damaging economic and trade relations between Beijing and Seoul. This nuclear issue is now the largest uncertainty in Northeast Asia and has become an impediment to regional economic cooperation and development.
North Korea is undoubtedly bearing the largest economic losses. Political and economic isolation has dragged the country's development and livelihood into a quagmire.
The escalating tension on the peninsula torments all sides. While the nuclear crisis has exhausted much of Washington's energy, Pyongyang dare not take Washington's threats lightly. North Korea is suffering the worst security situation since the armistice and the country is at its highest military alert. War would inevitably affect China and South Korea if it breaks out. The threatening exchanges between Washington and Pyongyang have deterred neither. Both sides will have to consider another means of communication.
To address the issue peacefully, Washington and Pyongyang must consider each other's core concern and move closer to each other. The US won't accept North Korea as a nuclear state, a stance shared by the international community. For North Korea, security is the top concern, which should be acknowledged by the US. The two sides can start seeking a breakthrough by Pyongyang giving up nuclear weapons for security.
Nuclear weaponry has brought no national security or international status to North Korea. If Washington and Seoul can convince Pyongyang of a more reliable security guarantee than ownership of a nuclear weapon, the stalemate might be broken.
The international community won't accept North Korea as a nuclear power. North Korea needs time and proof to believe that abandoning its nuclear program will contribute to its own political and economic advantage. This positive process is worth a try.
War would be a nightmare for the Korean Peninsula and surrounding regions. We strongly urge North Korea and the US to stop their bellicose posturing and seriously think about a peaceful solution.