North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency announced Monday that "a surface-to-surface medium-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2 … was successfully test-fired on Sunday." It also declared the country's major development in high-thrust solid fuel rocket engines. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un supervised the test at the site.
The UN Security Council on Sunday (local time) called for an emergency meeting. That meeting may be held on Monday at the earliest. US President Donald Trump has not yet commented on the latest North Korean missile test. His attitude and future actions on it are what Pyongyang is concerned with the most.
Previously, Washington and Seoul made two primary responses to North Korea's nuclear development or ballistic missile testing - strengthening their sanctions and upgrading their military threat against Pyongyang on the one hand, while calling on China to enhance its "management and control" over North Korea on the other.
How well does that strategy work? The world has witnessed the result. The US and South Korea have constantly attributed Pyongyang's increasingly proactive missile tests to Beijing's failure to do its best to sanction North Korea, and this has reassured and emboldened the latter.
If Trump's government falls into the past US mindset over Pyongyang, the North Korean nuclear issue could be either stuck in a deadlock during his presidency or risks the possibility of war on the Korean Peninsula, bringing this crisis to an end in massive bloodshed.
It is believed that both outcomes are not what Trump wants. Hence, adjustments in US strategies toward the Korean Peninsula are needed.
Trump must understand that North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons is an extreme response caused by the remnants of the Cold War on the peninsula. It is a problem between Washington, Seoul and Pyongyang rather than one between China and North Korea. If there is no major thaw in US and South Korean ties with Pyongyang, China won't be able to change the latter's mind to give up its nuclear weapons.
Military threats from the US and South Korea have indeed played a deterrent role, but, unfortunately, the effects of such deterrence are mostly negative. Pyongyang's policymakers treat them as a reason to hasten their nuclear and missile tests.
North Korea's determination to develop nuclear capabilities is a strategic mistake. However, the international community should help it by creating conditions to help it out of its current predicament, instead of pushing it in the wrong direction.
It is hoped that when the White House pressures Pyongyang, Trump reflects on the North Korean nuclear issue. The latter's nuclear and missile tests must eventually be stopped. The denuclearization of the Peninsula is one of the crucial pillars in today's global order. Efforts from each side are needed to realize that goal.
China has done the most to resolve the issue. Beijing had organized Six-Party Talks and joined international sanctions against North Korea. Its relationship with Pyongyang has changed the most due to the sanctions, with China paying a diplomatic price.
The US and South Korea have no right to accuse China on the North Korean nuclear issue. They should be ashamed of trying to shift the blame to China over the mess they have created.