How should the world deal with North Korea?

After North Korea's latest missile test, this time over Japan and across the Pacific, US President Trump indirectly threatened to resort to military measures. Commentators discuss the geopolitical sensitivity of the North Korea conflict and the goals Moscow and Beijing are pursuing.

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Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Moscow spurring Kim on

Left-wing journalist Jakub Majmurek analyses Russia's role in the conflict in Gazeta Wyborcza:

“Two months after the annexation of Crimea, Russia waived 90 percent of Pyongyang's debt. After Kim's provocations of the last months Russian propaganda blamed the US and its allies for the tensions. What does the Kremlin hope to achieve in Korea? No doubt the Russian political elite wants to preserve a militarily strong North Korean state that constitutes a buffer against the American troops stationed in South Korea. … The Russian bear won't stop playing its game in Korea. By assuring Pyongyang that it can count on economic support and its veto in the UN, it is encouraging the regime to take a harder stance on the international stage.”

Público (PT) /

China is benefiting from the crisis

International relations expert José Pedro Teixeira Fernandes explains in Público how China is benefiting from the North Korea crisis:

“Although a 'proxy war' with the US in North Korea would harm the Chinese economy and foreign trade, it would also have predictable geopolitical advantages for Beijing (apart, of course, if it comes to a catastrophe scenario involving a nuclear confrontation on the Korean peninsula). ... China is currently adopting the role of a major power, obliged to act in the interest of international peace and stability. At the same time it lets North Korea play the role of the agitator and provocateur. China itself doesn't want this role because that would harm its image. Nevertheless it suits its geopolitical plans very well.”

Sme (SK) /

North Korea calling the shots

The provocative firing of a North Korean medium-range missile over Japan and across the Pacific reveals the helplessness of the West, Sme observes:

“All we've heard from US President Trump once more is that all options are on the table. But what options is he talking about? Ex-advisor Bannon recently said that, given the prospect of millions of deaths, there was no military option. It's unclear what options the West still has in the way of sanctions, particularly as China is still buying textiles in North Korea and exporting oil there in return. For Beijing the top priority is that North Korea survives and China isn't flooded by millions of refugees fleeing across the shared border. … If there isn't a harsh international reaction, nothing can prevent North Korea from becoming a genuine nuclear power. The country seems determined to go all the way. And we have no choice but to wait and see what it does next.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Kim's dangerous desire for recognition

Kim was playing with fire again with the missile test over Japan, the Tages-Anzeiger comments:

“We can only imagine how US President Donald Trump would react to rubble raining down in Japan or the crash of a passenger plane hit by shrapnel. After the test he repeated that all options were on the table, including the military ones. Meanwhile Pyongyang insists on its right to defend itself, which no one is actually questioning. Kim's pathological desire for recognition is a trait he has in common with his opponent. But unlike Trump he is taking far greater risks to secure that recognition for himself, for his regime and for North Korea as a nuclear power. That is what makes this crisis so vulnerable to unplanned escalation.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

A permanent state of crisis

It's illusory to think that a US sanctions policy can do any good, Handelsblatt believes:

“For North Korea, becoming a full-scale nuclear power is imperative simply to prevent the US from trying to topple the regime. At the same time the threat of a nuclear hell is the most important means for the ultra-nationalists in Pyongyang to achieve their ultimate goal. They are hoping the US will eventually grow weary of defending South Korea and withdraw its troops so they can effect a reunification under North Korean leadership. … At the same time, neither China nor Russia are keen to trigger North Korea's collapse by imposing overly harsh sanctions, because this impoverished state not only acts as a welcome buffer against the US, but also has the potential to drive a wedge between the US and its East Asian allies.”

Delo (SI) /

Talks are the only option

The conflict with North Korea can only be resolved through negotiations, Delo writes, using the Cold War as a case in point:

“Bearing in mind that Washington's principal discussion partner isn't Pyongyang but Beijing, now is an ideal moment for talks like those between Reagan and Gorbatchev in the 1980s. Back then the two leaders recognised that the most sensible thing to do was to talk about doing away with nuclear weapons. ... If Trump wants to be remembered as more than just a lousy president, he'll have to ask himself what must be done to really make the US great. The answer: not waging war, but reflecting and negotiating.”