News out of North Korea continues to roil the international community, as an accumulation of provocations -- news of a nuclear detonation on Monday, rocket test Tuesday and on Wednesday military threats directed against South Korea.
A North Korean missile launch earlier this year. The country's leader, Kim Jong-Il, seems determined to provoke the world with nuclear and missile tests.
The rapid escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula has the international community scrambling for answers -- and unity. German commentators looked to China for action.
Business daily Handelsblatt writes:
"North Korea is escalating its weapons tests, risking a military confrontation with the South, and snubbing the US and China equally. For Chinese foreign policy, this is an affront. China has lost face. And that will not go unpunished."
"For the Chinese government, the diplomatic defeat North Korea has delivered is especially painful. China is striving to establish itself as Asia's policeman. Its goal isn't just a nuclear-free Korean peninsula but recognition of its status as the region's leader. That's why it's been beefing up its military and getting more and more involved on the global stage. As Asia's powerhouse, China wants to put itself at eye-level with the US. The current global financial crisis wasn't the first time this became apparent. Even back in 1997 and 1998, the Chinese were using trade to establish credibility with its neighbors."
"With its second nuclear test, North Korea did serious damage to this image. In part, China has itself to blame. Since 2003 it's been leading the so-called six-party talks, whose goal was to bring its neighbor's atomic weapons program to a halt, stabilize North Korea's economy and integrate it into the community of nations. The talks failed, in part because Beijing let the regime in Pyongyang know it could continue dodging financial and economic sanctions."
The Financial Times Deutschland writes,
"Two cases of swine flu, a dance festival in Seoul, a baseball player's fitness crisis -- oh, and the obligatory article about the threats coming from North Korea. The homepage of the Korea Times was as mixed as ever. For its 'Topic of the Day,' Korea's oldest English-language newspaper wrote about the burial of former Ppresident Roh Moo-hyun, not the new North Korean rocket tests. Even the local financial markets responded lackadaisically to the latest provocations from Pyongyang: The markets slipped 2 percent, the regained 1 percent. Business as usual."
"The apparently relaxed attitude in South Korea should serve to calm folks here who are predicting a new Korean War. Sure, the latest threats from Pyongyang are so aggressive as to send a cold chill down your back. North Korea wants an end to the truce that's kept peace on the peninsula for 56 years, and is threatening a return to an official state of war."
"Shrill slogans and saber-rattling have been North Korea's style for decades. There is no reason to start panicking now. …"
"The regime of the ailing Kim Jong Il is pushing its luck. But it's extremely unlikely that the army would actually pick up its weapons. The generals know that a devastating counter-attack would result. And Pyongyang's elite value their lives too."
"The US and its partners shouldn't be intimidated. Anyone who wants to stop the spread of nuclear weapons can't be bossed around by dictators."
The center-right Frankfürter Allgemeine Zeitung argues:
"China, in particular, needs to recognize its obligations as North Korea's biggest trading partner. It could reduce or remove its support for the North Korean regime entirely. Thus far, China has guaranteed the survival of its communist brother state for strategic reasons. If the regime were to collapse, China could expect a flood of refugees. And a unified, democratic -- and US-allied -- Korea on China's border wouldn't be in China's interest either."
"But now China needs to weigh another possibility. If North Korea is allowed to establish itself as a nuclear power, it's entirely possible that Japan would also arm itself with nukes to counter the North Korean threat. A heavily-armed and potentially even nuclear-capable Japan would be a grave challenge to China's authority. Beijing has to choose. It could be that the leadership changes its attitude towards North Korea after all, and that their displeasure with Pyongyang has its consequences. That would be long overdue."
And the center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung says:
"It's hard to tell what state of mind North Korea's leaders find themselves in. If the regime is afraid for its survival, paranoid fantasies might be flourishing. In a closed system, control over the decision making process collapses rapidly. A comparison with the collapse of Hitler's Germany isn't far off the mark."
"That's why it's so important that China asserts its strength and sends North Korea a definitive message. The best method would be through the UN Security Council. A tough resolution, stripped of relativistic language and waffling on the part of Beijing would give Kim Jong Il the message that he's gone too far this time and that the world stands united against him. North Korea has lost its role as China's agent provocateur. A modern China can't tolerate these old-fashioned outbursts any longer. A modern China will be authoritative when it prevents a 20th-century-style nuclear arms race from breaking out in East Asia."
-- Andrew Curry, 1 p.m. CET
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