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Terrorism & Security

As North Korea rocket launch nears, US allies discuss options

At the G-20 summit, the US, Japan, and South Korea are attempting to win backing for a Security Council resolution against North Korea.

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The BBC reports that Japan, the US, and South Korea are using the G20 summit to gather backing for possible UN Security Council action against North Korea. The president of South Korea, Lee Myung-bak, told Japan's prime minister, Taro Aso, that Russia and China needed to "join in a strong response." Analysts said Russia and China may argue that the wording of the UN's current ban on ballistic missile activity by North Korea does not apply to peaceful space launches.

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In personal meetings in London on the eve of the G20 summit, Mr Lee stressed the need for a "united response" among world leaders to the threat from the North.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd have already expressed their support.
"The launch will clearly constitute a violation of the Security Council resolutions, so it needs to be discussed in the appropriate manner in the council," said Osamu Sakashita, Japan's deputy cabinet secretary for public relations.
He said that Mr Lee told Mr Aso that Japan was entitled to shoot down the rocket if it misfires and endangers Japanese territory.

Mr. Obama, during his meeting with the South Korean president, showed support for Mr. Lee by praising his leadership and calling South Korea one of "America's closest allies and greatest friends," the Associated Press reports.

The Associated Press also reports that the March 17 arrest of two American reporters at the border between North Korea and China, whom Pyongyang has vowed to put on trial, could become a bargaining chip. Analysts said the regime can link this issue with its demand for direct talks with the US. The Obama administration has indicated that it wants to continue multilateral talks that group China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia, as well as the US and North Korea.

Writing in the English-language Korean Herald, a former South Korean ambassador to Washington argues that North Korea's inconsistencies on denuclearization are matched by abrupt policy changes by the US and South Korea. Yang Sung-chul warns that military tensions would rise if the US or other powers try to intercept the North Korean missile. The biggest concern is preventing any military escalation and keeping the six-party talks alive.

The long-term result of all this is oscillation between dialogue and deadlock, which has led to periods of uncertain engagement or heated confrontation. To break this sterile cycle, what is needed now is not more hot rhetoric about North Korea's missiles, but a commitment to steady, patient diplomacy that transcends changes in the political cycle. There is no quick fix in disentangling the Korean knot. Only persistence and commitment will do.
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