North Korea's Atomic Energy Institute on Wednesday claimed that it has reprocessed spent nuclear fuel rods removed from a graphite-moderated reactor in a written interview with Japan's Kyodo News. It also disclosed that its Yongbyon nuclear facilities have produced uranium needed for nuclear armaments. At a time when Beijing and Seoul are in a tug of war on the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, Pyongyang has thrown a bombshell.
North Korea mothballed the Yongbyon reactor in 2007 under the Six-Party Talks accord, but began renovating it amid the confrontation with the US and South Korea in 2013. Kyodo's report suggested that North Korea has resumed its reprocessing facilities and its nuclear reactor is in full swing.
This is a dilemma facing China, the US and South Korea. The choice of the latter two is simple. The more nuclear activities North Korea will carry out, the greater pressure they will impose on it. But their tactics are of no help in solving the problem.
Given the increasing risks of a military strike by the US and South Korea and subversion of the regime, Pyongyang seemingly has no other choice but to intensify its efforts in developing nuclear power. China seems to have the most options, but that has put the country in a predicament. Beijing has cooled down its relations with Pyongyang and imposed the toughest ever sanctions against it over the past several years.
Complaints from South Korea that China hasn't pressured Pyongyang enough have often been heard. Seoul hopes Beijing and Pyongyang will openly turn against each other. It is even better for Seoul to see the North targets its nuclear weapons at China. Meanwhile, Pyongyang blames Beijing for taking the wrong side.
China should stay unwavering to pursue denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula. Meanwhile, it should hold firm to opposing any strategic military deployment by the US that will cause threats to China's security under the excuse of dealing with the Peninsula situation. North Korea's resumption of uranium production further complicates the Korean Peninsula situation. But currently, China should pay more attention to THAAD.
Pyongyang has paid the price for developing nuclear weapons, so should the US and South Korea for deploying THAAD. Any resolution by the UN Security Council to denounce North Korea and adopt new sanctions should be associated with the THAAD issue. The US and South Korea should take the blame if THAAD impairs the effectiveness of sanctions against the North. Nonetheless, Pyongyang shouldn't feel relieved. It would rather be totally isolated from the international community before it gives up its nuclear ambition.
China objects to North Korea's nuclear tests and war on the Peninsula. But once large-scale military conflicts break out, the North and South Korea will take the brunt. China doesn't need to feel more anxious than them. Global Times
S. Korea-US provocation heightens DPRK's insecurity, sabotages regional stability
Under the pressure of South Korea-US military drill and the widely disputed THAAD deployment, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) reportedly fired a ballistic missile early Wednesday, sending a strong signal that Washington and its allies are risking turning the region into a powder keg.
If confirmed, the missile launch would be a new violation of UN resolutions. However, the fact that it came two days after the South Korea-US drill simulating an all-out attack by the DPRK merits a closer look at its motivation.
Denounced as aggression and provocation by the DPRK, the two-week Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises will surely not make Seoul safer. Rather, it might compel Pyongyang to take even more reckless actions for the sake of its own security.
In fact, the United States and South Korea have been warned in advance by the north. Calling the South Korea-US exercises the "most undisguised physical measure and provocative action," the DPRK has vowed to "foil all hostile acts and threat of aggression and provocation with the Korean-style nuclear deterrence."
Within that context, the launch could be regarded as a tit-for-tat move of Pyongyang.
Washington and Seoul are playing a dangerous game. They are holding a wolf by the ears in the hope that their sabre-rattling would deter the DPRK. However, their plan dooms to be a wishful thinking, as muscle-flexing leads to nowhere but a more anxious, more agitating and thus more unpredictable Pyongyang.
Meanwhile, the launch, already the fourth missile fired by the DPRK after the announcement of THAAD's deployment on July 8, could be interpreted as a protest against the planned installation of the system.
It also serves a reminder to policymakers in Seoul that by allowing the THAAD deployment, South Korea is putting the cart before the horse in their pursuit of national security, as the key to security lies in good neighborly and friendly relations with its neighbors, rather than a bunch of US-made missiles.
The increasingly complicated and stinging situation in East Asia needs to be cooled down before it is too late, and at this moment, what the region needs is cool heads instead of miscalculations. The ongoing trilateral meeting among Chinese, Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers offers a golden opportunity. - Xinhua
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