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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Times on Sept. 12)

All Headlines 06:58 September 12, 2016

New NK options
Change of approach to fix cold-war anomaly

The international community has undergone a routine cycle of reactions to North Korea's fifth and latest nuclear test. This starts with an uncontrolled show of fear and indignation, crescendos to condemnation by individual countries and the United Nations and peaks with threats of tougher action, before dissolving into shenanigans. This rhetorical exercise illustrates the lack of tools to punish the rogue state, led by a 32-year-old, inexperienced, chubby despot. Or so we think.

First of all, it is not a dearth of options but the absence of will or gravitas that has let the North Korean problem grow out of proportion. The irony is that the Friday test, the most successful so far, will force the world to realize the North's challenge indeed needs an immediate and coordinated effort. The test yielded the largest destructive power of firings so far, accounting for two-thirds of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II, and came on the heels of successful missile tests from submarines and mobile units. It can only be a matter of time before the North becomes a nuclear weapons state equipped with the nuclear triad, with the exception of strategic bombers.

With the world more united against the North, options that once looked unviable can gain new potency.

First, dialogue can be employed as an alternative to the erstwhile confrontational approach.

For about 15 years, the South under two conservative presidents ― Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak ― and the United States under George W. Bush ― have tried to drive the North into the wall, without success. Now, a different approach is long overdue. First, it should start with China. So far, Beijing has been chided for failing to put pressure on Pyongyang. Now, its new mission would be to fulfill its claim for rekindling dialogue with the Kim regime.

Late last year, the North tried to talk to Washington for a peace regime but was rejected. China touted itself as a broker, also without success.

Also worthy of studying is the current policy of denying the North the status of nuclear weapons state. States involved feared granting such a status might embolden the North to threaten and extort its neighbors and encourage other aspirants to follow suit. This fear can be mitigated by adopting an NCND policy, or unofficially giving the North such a status.

The main purpose lies in managing the bomb of North Korea in a way that it doesn't explode in our faces, inviting it to interact with the world and, hopefully, making it a less threatening neighbor. This process would lead the North to open up and in due time get subjected to the wear and tear given to an open society. The beauty of late former President Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" of engaging the North was to wait patiently for it to come out in the open, forcing it to make a choice between changing and collapsing under its own weight. It was not properly executed and yanked off the shelf before it blossomed.

Now, another chance for the resolution of the North Korean issue may be closer than it seems. It's time to gain a cool head with the North and engage them for a change. Just think about the Soviet Union that went down, not being able to use any if its nuclear arsenal that could destroy the world many times over. The North could be another Soviet Union.
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