Unable to make de-escalation progress using conventional diplomatic means at the United Nations, on Monday South Korean President Moon Jae-in proposed that the U.N. Security Council hold serious discussions about imposing an energy and capital blockade on North Korea, by cutting off oil supplies to Kim's regime coupled with a block of North Korean sources of foreign currency, the South Korean president's office said. Moon discussed the idea with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, during a phone call, according to South Korea's Blue House.
"It's time for the U.N. Security Council to seriously consider ways to block North Korea's sources of foreign currency, including a halt to oil supplies to the North and a ban on its exportation of laborers," the office quoted Moon as saying in the wake of the 6th North Korean nuclear test.
According to Yonhap, the South Korean leader also said Sunday's nuclear test "was different from past experiments in size and character, and expressed his heightened concern over North Korea's claim that it was an H-bomb that can fit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile."
Putin, who is attending a BRICS emerging economies summit in China, sided with his South Korean peer and said that North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs destroy the international nonproliferation regime and pose a "real threat" to regional peace and stability. He also noted that the leaders at the summit adopted a statement condemning the latest test. Moon underscored his commitment to resolving the North Korean nuclear issue diplomatically and peacefully. Putin, in turn, said the leaders at the summit agreed there is only a diplomatic solution to the problem.
"In order to do that, North Korea must refrain from additional provocations," Moon was quoted as saying during the 20-minute talks. The leaders agreed to hold further discussions at their summit in Vladivostok, Russia, later this week.
Meanwhile, in its populist tabloid Global Times, China's ruling communist party similarly slammed Kim's decision to demonstrably escalate tensions, writing that "the test marks another wrong choice that Pyongyang has made in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and against the will of the international community. This test will result in a new round of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula and heighten the risk of the situation spiraling out of control due to possible miscalculations by all sides."
The article's condemnation continued: "The latest nuclear test and its recent launches of intermediate- and long-range ballistic missiles prove that Pyongyang is determined to obtain a nuclear strike capability and will not yield to external international pressures. The North Korean nuclear issue has now reached deadlock" and added that in the face of such a complicated situation, "China needs a sober mind and must minimize the risks Chinese society has to bear. The security of China's northeastern regions is a priority."
We need to make clear to Pyongyang through various channels that its nuclear tests can never contaminate China's northeastern provinces. China's strategic security and environmental safety is the bottom line for China in showing restraint. If North Korea crosses this line, the current framework for Sino-North Korean ties will break down."
And yet, despite the far more somber take on its wayward neighbor, the Global Times said that "despite the anger of the Chinese public toward North Korea's new nuclear test, we should avoid resorting to rash and extreme means by imposing a full embargo on North Korea." Why not a full embargo?
If China completely cuts off the supply of oil to North Korea or even closes the China-North Korea border, it is uncertain whether we can deter Pyongyang from conducting further nuclear tests and missile launches. However, confrontation between the two is likely to occur. If so, the conflict between China and North Korea will transcend any conflict between the US and North Korea, and take center stage on the Korean Peninsula.
And the punchline: "Then Washington and Seoul can boldly shift the responsibility of the North Korean nuclear issue to China, which does not fit China's national interests."
Unless, of course, Washington and Seoul are right, and North Korea's action and behavior has indeed been a "Chinese issue", although as Bill Blain noted earlier today, "North Korea is no longer playing to the Chinese script."
That said, there is certainly an industrial-strength element of truth to the Global Times conclusion:
If North Korea's nuclear activities don't contaminate China's northeastern regions, China should avoid imposing overly aggressive sanctions on North Korea. The root cause of the North Korean nuclear issue is that the military pressure of the Washington-Seoul alliance generates a sense of insecurity for Pyongyang who then believes that owning a nuclear strike capability is its sole guarantee for survival of its regime.
Yet while spot on, this observation does not make the de-escalation of the N.Korea crisis any easier, since the likelihood of the US and/or S. Korea "retreating" in the face of North Korea is nil. Which is also why the Kim regime will continue poking the US with ever greater provocation until one it reaches the breaking point, at which point the military incursion will begin.
In the meantime, South Korea's weapons just got more deadly, because also on Monday, President Moon and President Trump agreed to remove the limit on the payload of South Korean missiles under the allies' missile guideline in a move to enhance South Korea's own defense capabilities against North Korean provocations, Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said Tuesday. The agreement was reached in a telephone conversation between the two leaders held late Monday.
"President Moon held a telephone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump between 10:45 p.m. and 11:25 p.m. (Seoul time) and discussed countermeasures against North Korea's sixth nuclear test in-depth," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Soo-hyun said in a press release. As an "effective" countermeasure, the two agreed to remove the limit on the payload of South Korean missiles under the Korea-U.S. missile guideline, he added.
The U.S. president agreed on the need for what his South Korean counterpart earlier called the most powerful and practical measures against the North that the communist state can feel keenly.
And then, there was this from Reuters:
- TRUMP, S.KOREA'S MOON AGREE TO `MAXIMIZE PRESSURE' ON N.KOREA; U.S., S. KOREA TO STRENGTHEN JOINT MILITARY CAPABILITIES: STMT
- TRUMP PROVIDED "CONCEPTUAL APPROVAL" FOR SOUTH KOREA TO PURCHASE "MANY BILLIONS OF DOLLARS’ WORTH" OF WEAPONS FROM U.S. -WHITE HOUSE
Well, at least the US military-industrial complex is profiting from the latest nuclear-armed geopolitical crisis... as usual.