Greater effort needed to rein in rogue state
North Korea persists with its bomb and missile tests as a disunited world stands by and watches, seemingly powerless to intervene.North Korea knows very well how the world reacts when it flouts international opinion and test-launches a long-range missile or detonates a nuclear device. There will be more condemnation if its efforts to become a nuclear power continue. Pyongyang has several times broken the UN sanctions embargo with no concern over retaliation by the international community.
The recent third test of an atomic bomb should send a clear message to the world that North Korea has no intention of abandoning its nuclear ambitions. It remains the dream of Kim Jong-un, the young leader who succeeded his father two years ago. And it is extremely dangerous. Any hope that Kim would take his impoverished country on a path of reform is now dashed. Deep down, it seems, the regime's leaders continue to think of ways to sustain the country's image as the world's foremost pariah state.
North Korea should take a look at Myanmar, which only two years ago was in the same unenviable position. The military leaders there also had the ambition to become a nuclear power, and asked Pyongyang to help. Now Myanmar is moving forward with all kinds of reforms that have been rewarded with an influx of foreign aid and investment. It may even realise the world's desire for it to become a democratic state. The once-isolated country has also become a new popular destination for tourists.
Myanmar seems to understand that when a country becomes a democracy, at least nominally, and joins the international community, it helps to raise the standard living of its people. North Korea can achieve the same objective without having to take the potentially suicidal path of becoming a nuclear power against the world's wishes.
It is foolish for Kim to try and boost his domestic popularity with more bomb and missile tests. Every time the regime decides to carry out these tests, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent. That money could be used to buy food and build houses for the people. But Kim has done none of this. Now it is time for China and even Asean to take the lead in encouraging reform.
China is the principle ally that has kept North Korea alive. For its own reasons, Beijing refuses to pressure Pyongyang. Without substantial assistance from China, especially food and fuel, as well as financial packages, the regime next door would be unable to survive.
The Asean Regional Forum should press Pyongyang to change. Of course there are limits to what Asean can do, but a common stand on the nuclear issue is imperative. After all, the six parties involved in talks to sway North Korea from its nuclear intent are also forum members.
Further pressure must be brought to bear on North Korea to reform and cease its errant behaviour. It is unfortunate that the concerned parties, especially China and the US, are not acting in tandem to prevent the North from become a nuclear power. If Pyongyang succeeds in attaining nuclear status in the foreseeable future, the world could suffer calamity. One thing is clear: the world is being, and will be, held hostage over the Korean Peninsula.