This is the 70th year since the end of the Second World War and although the Asia-Pacific region has come a long way from those horrible times and prospered on all levels, we cannot ignore the fact that the reality has been shockingly different for the people of North Korea. North Koreans continue to suffer under an authoritarian government that keeps making choices that are totally opposite to the wishes of its people. And as if subjugating its people was not enough, the government poses a serious threat to neighboring states and the international community in general.
Indeed, no one can find fault in the U.S. policy of holding North Korea responsible for the choices it has continued making over the last seven decades. And while North Korea is reclusive in all senses, the U.S. cannot afford to leave it to its own devices and let Kim Jong-Un do what he pleases. Waiting and hoping for the regime to collapse one day is also not an option, and it would simply be wishful thinking to expect the leaders at Pyongyang see some sense.
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A tough stance for North Korea
While it continues to violate its international commitments and obligations and shows total disregard for peace and stability in the region by aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons in a bid to strengthen its bullying agenda, the United States and the West in general cannot sit idly by and wait for Korea to change on its own. For years, the United States and its partners, have used a full range of tools such as deterrence, diplomacy and pressure to let North Korea know that it will never be able to achieve security and prosperity by using coercive means to further its agenda. Moreover, abusing its own population to acquire its objective is never going to help Pyongyang in the longer run.
This stubborn behavior has further tightened sanctions, while on numerous occasions and international platforms, the United States and its allies have told DPRK that the path to a brighter future will only be laid out when the government is willing to initiate negotiations that produce concrete denuclearization steps.
One of the main tools used to counter North Korea’s threat has been the United States’ readiness to defend its interests and those of its allies. Since the turn of the 21st Century, U.S. allies have been strengthened and modernized because the Hermit Kingdom’s isolation gives it an unpredictable look that cannot be ignored. Japan and South Korea in particular have been given a lot of support in recent years to counter possible North Korean aggression.
Keeping a sustained pressure
Apart from opting for the strongest possible deterrence measures, the U.S. has kept applying sustained pressure on the authoritarian regime for several years.
In July, the Treasury Department updated the list of the imposed sanctions to make it difficult for North Korean sanction targets to hide behind fake names and front companies. However, without the support of allies, these financial sanctions would never have been as effective as they have proven to be so far. Last year, the UN sanctioned North Korea’s major global shipping firm, and since then, the firm’s ships have been denied port entry, scrapped, or impounded or are simply stuck in their home ports. In short, maritime proliferation has come back to haunt the North Koreans.
North Korea’s political isolation is not only down to the United States’ wishes. Almost all of the international community does not want it to participate in global forums unless it does not respect its international obligations and commitments. Active diplomacy has dealt another blow to North Korea.
Russia, China and the United States on the same page
In the Six-Party talks, South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the USA have coordinated perfectly to send a clear message to Pyongyang that they have no other option but to live up to their international obligations while promising that credible negotiations and a will to denuclearize are going to help put the country back on the road to prosperity.
Despite obvious issues with Russia and China, all three parties are on the same page when it comes to limiting North Korea’s threat. Both states have coordinated excellently with the United States to underscore the imperative of denuclearization. And although the stance seems a little tough, it is a necessary step in a bid to maintain stability in the region. The U.S., China and Russia may have glaring differences, but one cannot deny the fact that when it comes to the North Korean threat, all three states are on the same wavelength, which really highlights the fact that Pyongyang is seen as a regional bully that has to be constantly given the taste of its own medicine until it softens up.