Correcting a spoiled child’s bad habits requires both a carrot and a stick. And if parents are determined to punish their child, they must do it in a way that ensures the child dares not to repeat the bad behavior. Otherwise, the child simply learns how to withstand the parents’ punishments.
It’s time for the international community to resolutely punish North Korea for what it has done.
Whenever the North has fiddled with nuclear experiments, the UN Security Council came up with various types of sanctions against the recalcitrant regime in Pyongyang. The international community reacted to the North’s first nuclear test in October 2006 with UN Resolution 1718. Its second test in June 2009 was followed by Resolution 1874.
After Pyongyang test-fired a de facto long-range missile last December, the supreme UN body passed Resolution 2087 aimed at cutting off imports and exports of sensitive military materials and banning financial transactions and government loans. But the economic sanctions stopped way short of making the North feel the necessary amount of pain, which has led us to a vicious cycle of provocations, sanctions and more provocations.
The UN Security Council began a discussion on tougher sanctions. Though its members agreed to adopt a binding resolution, it remains to be seen how substantial the punishment will be - due to China’s ambiguous attitude. If Beijing demonstrates a lukewarm response once again, the “significant action” the Security Council vowed to take will end up an empty phrase.
China, which accounts for 80 percent of Pyongyang’s foreign trade, holds the key to determining the level of pain in the punishment. Without Beijing’s help, sanctions will prove ineffective given the porous borderline of the two “blood” allies.
Pyongyang’s maverick behavior cannot be pardoned anymore and the ball is in the court of China’s new leader Xi Jinping. He must realize that even Chinese people are becoming impatient with the North’s nuclear provocations. The Chinese leadership may prioritize security over denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But Beijing must see the bigger picture if it does not want a proliferating regime and a nuclear domino effect in the region.