Editorial Notes

Trump should not be too eager to jump the gun on sanctions on North Korea: China Daily

In its editorial, the paper says that President Trump should accept Pyongyang's offer of direct talks rather than revert to threats and sanctions.

A news broadcast in Seoul shows pictures of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a railway station on Nov 29, 2017.
A news broadcast in Seoul shows pictures of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a railway station on Nov 29, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Targeting one Chinese individual, 27 entities and 28 vessels of China, the United States announced on Friday (Feb 23) what its Treasury Department called "the largest North Korea-related sanctions tranche to date".

"If the sanctions don't work, we'll have to go Phase 2," Mr Trymp said, alluding to the threat of military action. "Phase 2 may be a very rough thing - may be very, very unfortunate for the world."

In the meantime, his administration is reportedly working on a plan to significantly intensify interceptions of ships suspected of violating the UN sanctions imposed on North Korea, in the hope of plugging a loophole that allegedly allows Pyongyang to finance its weapons programmes via maritime smuggling.

Such moves only threaten to jeopardise the current Olympic inter-Korean détente that has brought hopes of a way out of the dangerous predicament on the Korean Peninsula, with South Korea saying on Sunday (Feb 25) that the North is willing to hold direct talks with the US.

Those with an optimistic outlook hope such talks happen and will lead to negotiations that will secure a lasting peace agreement.

Well-wishers have always hoped for the best-case scenario in dealing with North Korea's nuclear crisis - resolving it within the UN framework with little pain, if any, inflicted.

But the current easing of tensions on the Korean peninsula, encouraging as it is, provides only a window of opportunity that can shut at any moment. While it is open, it needs to be made the most of.


Mr Trump's threats, even if intended as a pressure tactic, along with his demand that Pyongyang takes concrete steps towards denuclearisation first, will only slam the window shut, restarting the vicious circle of tit-for-tat actions that had threatened to get out of hand prior to the current inter-Korean cordiality.

The UN-endorsed sanctions are the best way to encourage the North to regard its nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip to get the security guarantees it needs, rather than the only means of guaranteeing its security.

For those sanctions to bite, however, the sanctions not only have to be tough enough, but they also have to be carried out.

Yet that does not justify Washington adopting a "long-arm" approach to carrying out those sanctions.

The biggest pitfall to concerted efforts to put an end to North Korea's nuclear adventure through sanctions is for Washington to divide the international coalition by seeking to unilaterally punish entities and individuals that violate the UN sanctions, rather than letting the violators be dealt with by the stakeholders concerned under domestic laws.

It has been said that wisdom consists of knowing how to distinguish the nature of trouble, and being able to choose the lesser evil.

Rather than harking back to his earlier threat of "fire and fury", Mr Trump should accept Pyongyang's offer of talks and work with all stakeholders to end the crisis and denuclearise the Korean Peninsula peacefully.

China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.