Fears of escalation in the North Korea crisis

The US has warned that it is prepared to take military action against North Korea if the country doesn't give up its controversial nuclear programme. But a diplomatic solution would be preferred, US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley explained. The US plans to present a resolution on tougher sanctions to the UN Security Council. Europe's press discusses whether this is the right approach.

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The Guardian (GB) /

Economic opening as the best weapon against Kim

The one weapon that would truly bring North Korea to heel hasn't been used yet, the Guardian points out:

“The truth is that the most potent weapon in Korea is Seoul’s crony-capitalist economy, to which China is becoming ever more akin. If a reduction in tension and then negotiation could unleash that economy to 'aid' Pyongyang, Kim Jung-un’s generals and family would for sure rush to the trough of greed. He might not last a year. Missiles could never achieve that. In other words, the most effective sanction on North Korea - as on almost any country - is economic, but in precisely the opposite way to 'economic sanctions'. It is the sanction of prosperity. But this requires a reversal of the language of diplomacy.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Take the path of nuclear disarmament

The nuclear weapons that are at the core of the dispute need to be subject to serious negotiations, La Repubblica demands:

“The path of negotiations will remain difficult if the Americans don't declare their willingness to grant North Korea the right to own nuclear weapons and missiles within certain limits. But a reversal on the nuclear issue is hard to imagine at present. The process can only be stopped in its initial phase (as with the agreement with Iran). Once a certain line has been crossed the only viable path is general nuclear disarmament. A wonderful dream that shouldn't be abandoned. Reagan and Gorbachev dreamed it at their meeting in Reykjavik in 1986 and Obama took it up again in his 2009 speech in Prague. We are all paying the price for the fact that we haven't got any further in the process of nuclear disarmament.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Trump all on his own

El Periódico de Catalunya sees US President Trump as isolated:

“The unpredictable Kim Jong-un is dealing with an equally unpredictable and politically inexperienced opponent. Donald Trump responded to North Korea's last provocation by sending warships to the zone, this time he engaged in a joint military exercise with South Korea. He has also realised how isolated he is. He thought he could rely on Xi Jinping for support, but Beijing and Moscow have him in their grip. China has called for a halt to all nuclear demonstrations by North Korea and to the military exercises of the US and its ally South Korea. Russia, for its part, is demanding the complete denuclearisation of the peninsula, north and south. These demands put Trump in a weak position while the risks that dealing with a megalomaniac tyrant involves remain.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Will Trump let himself be provoked?

Trump may fall for Pyongyang's bluff, Les Echos fears:

“The last Stalinist state in the world still doesn't have the technology it needs to load a nuclear warhead on a missile that has the potential to hit the US. The weapon fired on Tuesday could reach Alaska at most. However, North Korea has carried out numerous nuclear tests to show that it can build a super-weapon. A weapon of mass destruction that allows a weak country to heave itself up to the level of the strong by threatening its enemies with apocalyptic destruction. ... There is a risk that [Trump] will fall into North Korea's trap and execute a preventive strike, which could in turn trigger a reaction from Pyongyang. Unless China understands that time is running out, that is, and exerts real pressure on its ally.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

China is the key

Trump should start by adopting a strong stance vis-à-vis North Korea's protecting power China, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung recommends:

“ The US has already provided a few samples of this, for example by strengthening ties with India, one of China's strategic rivals, by approving weapons deliveries to Taiwan and by having an American warship sail demonstratively through disputed waters in the South China Sea. Its biggest leverage, however, would be sanctions against Chinese banks that launder North Korean money and do business with firms that deliver goods for military use to the communist brother state. But if Trump continues to rely on empty words (and tweets), he will go down in history as the president under whom North Korea's nuclear bombs became a concrete threat to America.”

Kainuun Sanomat (FI) /

Use diplomacy, not sanctions

The danger of war has increased alarmingly, Kainuun Sanomat writes, and calls for diplomacy:

“North Korea has always justified its missile and nuclear programme by claiming that it serves as a deterrent and staves off an attack by the US. The US's words and actions only confirm this argument. One proposal for easing the situation diplomatically was that guarantees be made to North Korea that it is not under threat and that its future is secure. In return, North Korea would have to agree to measures that prevent it from pursuing its missile programme in secret. Every attempt to stop this must be made. Diplomacy is more productive than threats or sanctions like those the UN Security Council has imposed on North Korea for over ten years.”