Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned Sunday that talking to North Korea is not an option, calling instead for increased pressure and international solidarity against the country.
“More dialogue with North Korea would be a dead end,” Abe explained in an opinion piece in The New York Times, arguing that past attempts to “solve the problem through dialogue failed.”
Former President Bill Clinton agreed to give North Korea billions of dollars in aid in return for denuclearization in the 1990s, but Pyongyang negotiated in bad faith, secretly enriching fissile material.
North Korea withdrew from the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in the early 2000s. In response, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. engaged North Korea in dialogue through the Six-Party Talks. North Korea declared itself a nuclear power in 2005 and tested its first nuclear device in 2006. Dialogue ultimately failed, and earlier this month, the rogue regime tested a purported staged thermonuclear weapon that can be mounted on North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile.
“Prioritizing diplomacy and emphasizing the importance of dialogue will not work with North Korea,” Abe wrote, adding, “History shows that concerted pressure by the entire international community is essential.”
Japan, the only country to ever be on the receiving end of a nuclear weapon and a target of regular North Korean verbal assaults, is concerned by recent developments, specifically North Korea’s newfound interest in firing missiles over Japanese territory into the Pacific Ocean. In the past month, North Korea has done so twice.
Together with its allies, the U.S. has been pursuing a peaceful resolution while maintaining that a military option is in place if diplomacy fails. “I firmly support the United States position that all options are on the table,” Abe asserted, further explaining that “North Korea poses a serious threat and challenge to our world.”
In recent months, Japan has put increased emphasis on its military capabilities, including ballistic missile defense and the ability to return fire if attacked.
“North Korea has demonstrated the capability to hit targets anywhere in Japan,” Narushige Michishita, a defense expert at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, stressed to The Washington Post earlier in September. “It has become even more important for Japan to improve its missile and civil defense capabilities, and seriously think about acquiring limited but meaningful strike capabilities.”
While Abe is more of a hawk, his counterpart in South Korea, President Moon Jae-in, is more of a dove. Nonetheless, frequent North Korean provocations have led South Korea to boost its missile defense capabilities, as well as pursue the development of heavier warheads for its longer range ballistic missiles. America’s Asian allies are gearing up for a potential conflict.
No one wants a war, though. Abe urged all countries to fully implement U.N. sanctions resolutions and increase pressure on North Korea, explaining that a concerted international effort is “more vital than ever.”
U.S. officials have warned that time is running out for a peaceful resolution. “If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behavior, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told CNN Sunday.
“I have no problem kicking [the North Korea issue] to General Mattis,” Haley said at a White House press briefing Friday, explaining that despite diplomatic efforts and strong U.N. sanctions, the North Koreans “continue to be provocative.”
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