Korea Update 2017: More engagement, less hype urged to ease tensions

03 October 2017

By CAP student correspondent Dot Mason

Scholars from The Australian National University’s College of Asia & the Pacific have called for a dialling down of media sensationalism and bellicose rhetoric to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Speaking after the 2017 Korean Update hosted last week by the College, Associate Professor Roald Maliangkay urged greater attention on diplomatic solutions rather than the war on words between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un.

“We are not paying very careful attention at all to what North Korea is doing and saying,” said Dr Maliangkay, director of the ANU Korea Institute. “We need to be more observant and not blinded by media juggernauts.”

Dr Maliangkay, who chaired a panel discussion at the event, said the latest round of sanctions against Pyongyang were unlikely to curb Kim’s nuclear ambitions. The US Treasury announced the new measures on September 26 in retaliation for North Korea’s missile launches in August and September.

However, Dr Maliangkay said dialogue rather than deterrents could change the situation “we always find ourselves in”.

“Merely following the general consensus and supporting sanctions is not going to be helpful at all. For a long-term solution to the repeated stalemate position, we need to engage more directly with North Korea, as we (the ANU) have done in the past,” he said.

Professor Jae-jung Suh, a political scientist at the International Christian University in Japan, said that the US-North Korea relationship was historically one of “tit-for-tat”, whereby the escalation of hostilities on one side was met with further aggression on the other. In the ensuing panic, exacerbated by media speculation, it can be difficult to separate rhetoric from real threats.

Scholars noted that de-escalation depended on a return to diplomatic talks similar to those under the Carter Administration, which resulted in North Korea freezing its nuclear weapons program.

Find out more about the ANU Korea Institute.

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Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team