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'Restraint' more likely to work with N. Korea

Ms Susan Rice's view on defusing tensions on the Korean peninsula has my support (It's not too late on North Korea; Aug 12).

President Donald Trump's handling of the situation has been deeply counterproductive. His maverick tone and casual issuance of threats on social media are unprecedented for a sitting US commander-in-chief.

The United States' highest priorities at this time should be to, first, clarify the administration's position through moderated language and more cohesive public communication, and second, reposition itself on a more careful and strictly defensive footing.

Exercising restraint by holding back military intimidation is the most realistic means of bringing North Korea back to the negotiating table.

In addition, the importance of China as a potential mediator in this crisis cannot be overstated.

While Chinese President Xi Jinping cannot be faulted for keeping his distance by choosing the conservative "dual track" approach, there is more his government can do.

Beijing has a unique and invaluable opportunity to prove its worth as a responsible regional power broker.

The imposition of additional economic sanctions on North Korea, however, should be reconsidered. In the past, such punitive measures have served only to intensify the Kim regime's persecution complex, furthering its conviction that nuclear armaments are necessary to ensure North Korean national security.

Indeed, repeated rounds of sanctions have taken their greatest toll on the hapless civilian population, whereas the state and military have found illicit ways of circumventing the restrictions.

To bring a pariah state back into the fold is difficult, but not impossible.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 27, 2017, with the headline ''Restraint' more likely to work with N. Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe