One month and two nuclear tests — the nuclearization of North Korea has made the situation vulnerable in East Asian region. On July 28, Pyongyang successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile “HWASONG-14”. This was the second successful (ICBM) test by North Korea. Earlier, an ICBM test was conducted on July 4.
These tests have raised the concerns of international community that the North Korean missile tests hamper the deterrence stability of the Korean peninsula. China called the test “absolutely intolerable,” France asked UN, “to take up the violation of its resolutions,” while South Korea, Japan and the USA highly condemned these tests
The missile tests affected not only the allies of North Korea, but in general those of the USA, Japan, South Korea, China and Russia. The missile flew about 45 minutes going 3,700 kilometer high in the space with a distance covering some 1,000 kilometers carrying a large-sized heavy nuclear warhead.
North Korea’s nuclear tests cause questions to be raised about the security and stability of the Korean Peninsula, especially on the backdrop of the tenacity of that country to be a protagonist in the region as a trouble creator. Subsequently at one side it’s a blow to the non-proliferation regime, with the peace and strategic environment of the Korean Peninsula being disturbed, and North Korea’s allies are facing criticism for aiding its ambitions, and major global power rivalry is increasing.
Moreover, it will be more difficult for the countries that are trying to obtain NSG membership as the non-proliferation regime will be more strictly monitoring activities on behalf of de-facto nuclear weapon countries. The tests would not only suggest a stern warning for the region about the strength of North Korea’s ballistic missile capabilities, but also would feed talk regarding the legitimacy of North Korean missiles in the weapons proliferation regime.
Pyongyang is clearly giving a message to the world that it has acquired nuclear technology; Kim Jong-Un said that the nuclear weapons program is “a precious asset”. North Korea is materializing a strategic nuclear deterrence in the Korean Peninsula in contradiction to its present and potential adversaries. Kim has been quoted as saying that, “the whole US mainland is now within North Korea’s reach.” This will intensify the xenophobia in the entire North Korean nation with a surge of nationalism as a strategy to counter the international pressure. Moreover, it’s claimed that the missile has the range that can target all the major cities of USA including Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago as well as New York and Boston. Unites States condemned the missile tests with US President Donald Trump stating that, “The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region.”
An arms race in the region might increase barricading the efforts towards the arms control and further hampering the deterrence stability of the Korean Peninsula. The escalation control depends upon the prevailing of deterrence stability. However, North Korea’s nuclear test (HWASONG-14) test gives an impression that it’s hard to achieve an escalation control. Most probably to counter this move North Korea will need to face further sanctions.
The most serious concerns might be for Japan and South Korea. HWASONG-14 has the ability to reach Japan and United States. It can hit 200 miles towards Japan’s north most island i.e. (Hokkaido) in the west of Shakotan peninsula, within Japanese special economic zone. Japan has already bee a victim of nuclear weapons and it would not allow a repeat of Hiroshima-Nagasaki and Fukushima. To date, Japan has established on a non-nuclear posture for its national security policy.
Similarly, South Korea will have to consider the costs and benefits of going nuclear. Both the states terminated their nuclear program on the United States’ assurance of peace and security for them. Japan and South Korea have apprehensions to call for a secure and active extended deterrence.
North Korea’s nuclear pledge has put its allies Russia and China at risk and under immense pressure. Both China and Russia have condemned the North Korean ballistic missile tests.
China’s Foreign Minister Geng Shuag said, “China is opposed to North Korea’s launch activities in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and against the will of the international community”.
China faces much of the burden, maybe even more then North Korea, as it is being compelled to assert sanctions against North Korea to discontinue itsactions. Chinese Ambassador to the UN Liu Jieyi, is president of the Security Council, and has said that North Korea’s nuclear test are against UNSC resolutions.
The current situation might be critical for China to choose between its old friends, while maintaining its position in international settings
In that vein, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has argued that, “Much of the burden of enforcing UN sanctions rests with China”.
China is currently largest goods trading partner of United States. In 2016 China-US trade reached $578.6 billion. Exports and imports between China and US totaled $115.8 billion and $462.8 billion, respectively, while US trade deficit with China was $347.0 billion in 2016.
Considering China’s trade with North Korea, it was worth $2.6 billion in the first half of 2017 with a growth of 40%.
In other words, North Korea’s nuclear test actually could affect trade between China and USA — and which would affect the Chinese economy largely.
The US has warned China and Russia to cut off trade with North Korea. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “as the principal economic enablers of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development program, China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for their growing threat to regional and global stability.”
Bearing the sanctions, while intimidating the international community, these weapons and tests will further isolate North Korea, while deteriorating its economy and robbing the nation. Meanwhile the splashes of the test are not only limited to the North Korea. Additionally, it allies and other regional countries will also be affected thus creating an atmosphere of distress and uncertainty in the Korean Peninsula.
*Qura tul ain Hafeez has done M Phil in international relations from Quaid-I Azam University Islamabad. She is currently working as a researcher at Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad. Her domain of work includes China as an emerging global power, Sino-Pakistan strategic and civil nuclear relations, South Asian strategic issues, regional integration, nuclear issues including nuclear non-proliferation and NSG, Foreign Policy analysis, and international politics.