In March North Korea reacted strongly to ongoing US-South Korean military drills and against new UN sanctions, which were a response to the North’s launch of long-range rockets in December and its third underground nuclear explosion in February. Pyongyang reacted by declaring its abrogation of the ceasefire to the Korean War.
What can peace workers suggest to solve this crisis? Jonathan Granoff, president of the Global Security Institute, calls for non-discriminatory, cooperative approaches. The basic answer is to eliminate nuclear weapons universally. The possession and threat of their use by any country undermines the prospect of halting proliferation. The US can take a useful step by declaring a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons. Another big step would be to ratify the comprehensive test ban treaty, which already has an impressively verified international monitoring system that can detect even small tests anywhere. Whereas North Korea has tested three times, its existential enemies have done so upward of 2,000 times. We need a single, universal standard for all countries.
Rightly or not, North Korea perceives itself as existentially threatened by the United States. In negotiations, it must be assured that no country intends to attack it. Such assurance might be a comprehensive peace agreement to replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement—an insufficient end to a war.
Mutual cessation of provocative military exercises would reduce tensions, Granoff predicts. “We do not need military exercises to demonstrate that we are poised and ready to deter aggression.”
Finally, Granoff urges that parliamentarians and diplomats promote existing proposals for a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone encompassing both North and South Korea, and Japan, with security assurances from nuclear-armed China, Russia and the US. He notes,
“This sort of rational approach has already succeeded in Latin America, Central Asia, the South Pacific, Africa, and South Asia, including thereby over 112 countries in nuclear weapon-free zones. Parliaments in Japan and South Korea, as well as civil society groups and some diplomats, have been exploring this proposal and should continue to do so.
“Sanctions have failed to change Pyongyang’s behavior, position, or rhetoric. More of the same will similarly fail. It is time for a new approach…to build a sustainable security for Asia and the world.”
Jonathan Granoff is on Twitter: twitter.com/GSInstitute.