The world snapped to attention on Saturday night when North Korea carried out a satellite launch that experts say was not for the “peaceful purposes” that Pyongyang claims. The satellite went up on a long-range missile that could be used to deliver a nuclear payload as far away as the west coast of the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was one of many world leaders to condemn the test.
“This is the second time in just over a month that the DPRK has chosen to conduct a major provocation, threatening not only the security of the Korean peninsula, but that of the region and the United States as well,” Kerry said in a statement.
Representatives from the U.S., Japan, and South Korea requested an emergency meeting at the UN on Sunday, hoping that Kim Jong Un’s latest act of defiance will be enough to trigger a fresh round of economic sanctions. They’ll face opposition on that front from China, which said Sunday that sanctions “are definitely not the aim.” Instead, the communist regime promised to “exercise strategic composure and play a constructive role in helping seek a solution to the peninsular conundrum.”
China’s refusal to abide by international sanctions on North Korea has allowed the Kim Jong Un regime to flourish even as the citizenry suffers. Lacking their cooperation, the U.S. and South Korea have agreed to begin talks on the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, a missile shield that would, theoretically, nullify a North Korea armed with ICBMs.
The launch was only the latest in a long series of confrontational spectacles cherished by the North Korean lunatic. Since taking over the reigns from his father in 2011, Kim Jong Un has presided over four nuclear tests and three long-range rocket launches – all of which are banned by the UN Security Council. World experts believe he puts on these displays to promote national unity and protect his own dictatorship at a time when millions of North Koreans are struggling to survive the harsh economic conditions.
South Korean presidential security adviser Cho Tae-yong said, “The only route to have North Korea give up its nuclear program is […] by coming up with effective and strong UN Security Council sanctions.”
Economic sanctions, though, are only as strong as their enforcement. China is loathe to see the current regime crumble, fearing that it could lead to a refugee crisis. Without China’s cooperation, the effectiveness of sanctions is limited. President Obama, like his predecessors, is understandably wary when it comes to pushing China too far.
At the same time, though, the U.S. cannot afford to wait until it’s too late to do something about this growing threat. While our military attention is focused on the Islamic State, Kim Jong Un is preparing to bring the world back to the brink of nuclear war. With some estimates saying that North Korea currently possesses a stockpile of up to 100 nuclear weapons, time may be running out for a diplomatic solution.