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EDITORIAL: Korean crisis requires cool heads


EDITORIAL: Korean crisis requires cool heads

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EVENTS IN EAST ASIA would normally not grasp our attention on a daily basis. However, given the tensions there between North Korea on the one hand, and the United States and its allies South Korea and Japan on the other, we have no choice but to follow very closely what’s going on.

There is a tangled web happening in the area which could very likely engulf the entire world. North Korea has moved beyond spewing rhetoric and has successfully fired four long-range ballistic missiles (before yesterday’s failure) that represent a real threat to South Korea, Japan and even US territory.

President Donald Trump, now clearly apprised of his predecessor Barack Obama’s warning about the North Korea problem, appears to be of the view that the US may have no choice but to pursue a military solution. This threat from the Americans is not sitting well with China, the lifeline for North Korea. The Chinese, after all, are very key in solving this potential calamity.

This is not a time for brinkmanship, but rather for pragmatism and diplomacy. After all, the fallout would be catastrophic given that nuclear weapons could be involved in any military use of force between those in this showdown. The development of and threat to use weapons of mass destruction pose a real threat to world peace.

President Trump has already indicated that “North Korea is a problem and will be taken care of”. Adding to the tension in the Korean peninsula, a US aircraft carrier group is steaming towards the region. It is a very worrisome situation as just one small error can cause a monumental catastrophe.

Caution is going to be a key factor in this ever-unfolding situation, yet the United States cannot play or appear to be weak and as such, must step up all deterrence measures against the North Koreans who must not be allowed to get away with rogue behaviour.

The totalitarian leadership in Pyongyang is unpredictable and may have realised that neither the change in government in Washington nor the forthcoming election of a new president and government in South Korea will lead to a thawing of relations.

What is evident is that China will have to play a significant role in defusing tensions. The Americans are clearly aware of this and hence Trump’s recent doublespeak as it relates to Beijing.

Even in this part of the world we must speak out on this troubling issue and let China know we expect them to pressure the North Koreans into doing the right and decent thing. This includes respecting the basic human rights and civil liberties of its own people.

It’s in no one’s interest for the crisis in the peninsula to intensify.