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China’s role in US-North Korea stand-off limited

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Super power USA continues to decide for the entire world and imposes its will on those that remain unwilling to follow the footsteps capitalist imperialists. American strategists believe continued pressure tactics and threatening tone of USA have made tremendous impact even on its strongest opponent Soviet Russia to fall in line by breaking up the mighty Soviet state and its Warsaw Pact military alliance and also forced its ally China to take a conciliatory approach in order to raise trade with capitalist nations. 

Today, Iran and North Korea are the two nations that are stubborn and refuse to abide US rules. And so Washington pushes for punitive measures to weaken them by taking up the nuclear issue even while it is unserious about total denuclearization and disarmament globally. Both are indeed scared of USA and its terror ally Israel and therefore update their missile capabilities with regular missile tests. But USA calls these a serious threat to  American security.  .

USA opposes rapid missile tests being conducted by Iran and North Korea though it also is engaged in such terror operations as a routine matter. . 

ICBM celebrated

North Korea’s recent long-range missile tests have deepened concern about the threat Pyongyang poses to the US mainland, and strengthened determination here to prevent any strike. North Korea said it had conducted another successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that proved its ability to strike the US mainland, drawing a sharp warning from Trump and a rebuke from China. The latest test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) celebrated by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was the latest to be conducted in defiance of a UN ban. “We do not seek a regime change, we do not seek the collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel,” said Mr Tillerson, referring to the border between the Koreas.

North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, supervised the midnight launch of the missile and called it a “stern warning” to the USA that it would not be safe from destruction if it tried to attack China or its allies. However, two US intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Monday Kim wants to develop a nuclear-capable ICBM to deter any attack on his country and gain international legitimacy, not to launch an attack on the USA or its allies that he knows would be suicidal.

The ejection test was carried out on land at Sinpo Naval Shipyard, the US defense official told CNN. It gave no other details about the increased submarine activity. Ejection tests from submarines usually gauge the ability to “cold launch” missiles, when high pressure steam is used to propel missiles out of launch canisters. The shipyard is in Sinpo, a port city on the east coast where the North had previously conducted tests of submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

Acknowledgement

The Pentagon acknowledged that the latest test represented the longest test flight of any North Korean missile. The missile could fly at least 3,420 miles, the minimum range for what the Pentagon classifies as an ICBM. Two separate US officials who discussed the latest test, which lasted about 45 minutes, said it showed greater range than the July 4 ICBM launch, which North Korea said lasted 39 minutes. One of the officials said it had greater height, range and power than the previous test because it used force stabilizing engines, which counter the effects of winds and other forces that can knock an ascending rocket off course. A US defense official, reported later that North Korea had been showing “highly unusual and unprecedented levels” of submarine activity, in addition to its third “ejection test” this month.

According to a US assessment, North Korea’s latest test of an intercontinental ballistic missile has shown that Pyongyang now may be able to reach most of the continental USA. The assessment, which the officials discussed on condition of anonymity, underscored the growing threat posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, and could add pressure on President Donald Trump’s administration to respond. Video of the latest missile test appears to show it breaking up before landing, indicating Pyongyang may not yet have mastered re-entry technology needed for an operational nuclear-tipped missile.

Range

Pyongyang claimed its latest missile could hit the US west coast.

Independent weapons experts also said they believed the launch demonstrated many parts of the USA were within range if the missile had been launched at a flattened trajectory. The top Democrat in the US Senate called on President Donald Trump to block some Chinese investments in the USA to pressure China “to help rein in North Korea’s threatening and destabilizing behavior.”

The Pentagon acknowledged military-to-military talks with US allies Japan and South Korea after the test. While the test missile had a lofted trajectory rather than the more direct one required to reach the USA, the military takes the threat seriously. The Hwasong-14, named after the Korean word for Mars, reached an altitude of 2,314.6 miles and flew 620 miles before landing in the waters off the Korean peninsula’s east coast, according to KCNA. The flight demonstrated successful stage separation, and reliability of the vehicle’s control and guidance to allow the warhead to make an atmospheric re-entry under conditions harsher than under a normal long-range trajectory, KCNA said.

A White House statement after the phone call said the two leaders “agreed that North Korea poses a grave and growing direct threat to the USA, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and other countries near and far”.  It said Trump “reaffirmed our ironclad commitment” to defend Japan and South Korea from any attack, using the full range of US capabilities.  A Republican senator said President Donald Trump had told him there would be a war with North Korea if its missile program continued. One Is not very sure if he was joking.

China scapegoat?

President Trump who seems to have soft corner for Russia for unknown reasons, has repeatedly urged China to rein in its ally North Korea and has repeatedly criticised China, which shares a land border with North Korea and is its closest economically, for not doing enough to stop Pyongyang’s weapons program. Trump tweeted after the missile test that he was “very disappointed” in China and that Beijing profits from US trade but had done “nothing” for the USA with regards to North Korea, something he would not allow to continue. Asked by a reporter how he plans to deal with Pyongyang, Trump said at the start of a Cabinet meeting: “We’ll handle North Korea… It will be handled.”

China hit back after US President Donald Trump tweeted he was “very disappointed” in China following North Korea’s latest missile test, saying the problem did not arise in China and that all sides need to work for a solution.  China has become increasingly frustrated with American and Japanese criticism that it should do more to rein in Pyongyang.

China is North Korea’s closest ally, but Beijing, too, is angry with its continued nuclear and missile tests. China’s Foreign Ministry, responding to Trump’s earlier tweets, said the North Korean nuclear issue did not arise because of China and that everyone needed to work together to seek a resolution. 

At the UN in New York, China’s UN ambassador Liu Jieyi said it is primarily up to the USA and North Korea, not Beijing, to reduce tensions and work toward resuming talks to end Pyongyang’s nuclear weapon and missile programs. The USA and North Korea “hold the primary responsibility to keep things moving, to start moving in the right direction, not China,” China’s U Liu Jieyi told a news conference to mark the end of Beijing’s presidency of the UN Security Council in July. “No matter how capable China is, China’s efforts will not yield practical results because it depends on the two principal parties,” Liu said. China said there was no link between the North Korea issue and China-US trade. “We think the North Korea nuclear issue and China-U.S. trade are issues that are in two completely different domains. They aren’t related. They should not be discussed together”.

China, with which North Korea does most of its trade, has repeatedly said it strictly follows UN resolutions on North Korea and has denounced unilateral US sanctions as unhelpful. Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN, said in a statement China must decide if it is willing to back imposing stronger UN sanctions on North Korea over Friday night’s long-range missile test, the North’s second this month. Any new UN Security Council resolution “that does not significantly increase the international pressure on North Korea is of no value”, Haley said, adding that Japan and South Korea also needed to do more.

China’s close ally Russia said the USA and other countries were trying “to shift responsibility for the situation to Russia and China” following the most recent missile test. “We view as groundless attempts undertaken by the USA and a number of other countries to shift responsibility to Russia and China, almost blaming Moscow and Beijing for indulging the missile and nuclear ambitions of the DPRK (North Korea),” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Options

The Pentagon said it has updated military options, but at the same time says a confrontation would be catastrophic. In light of that, US foreign minister Tillerson repeated at length that the US wasn’t seeking regime change and said the goal was dialogue, but one not based on the assumption that North Korea could keep its nuclear weapons. Pyongyang has categorically refused such terms.

Rex Tillerson, the secretary of states, says that the US government, unlike in West Asia, is not seeking a regime change in North Korea, amid tensions over Pyongyang’s weapons program. “We’re not your enemy,” Rex Tillerson said, adding that the US wanted a dialogue at some point. As always, there are no good options when it comes to North Korea, but less time to pursue them. The strategy, said Tillerson, is a sustained campaign of peaceful but intensifying economic pressure to change its mind. But given the advances in ballistic technology demonstrated by the recent ICBM tests, there’s growing doubt that denuclearization is a realistic possibility. However, Tillerson took a more diplomatic approach, saying that “only the North Koreans are to blame for this situation”. “But,” he added, “we do believe China has a special and unique relationship, because of this significant economic activity, to influence the North Korean regime in ways that no one else can.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke with Trump and agreed on the need for more action on North Korea just hours after the US Ambassador to the UN said Washington is “done talking about North Korea”. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke with Trump and agreed on the need for more action on North Korea, hours after the US Ambassador to the UN said Washington was “done talking about North Korea”.

Japanese PM Abe and Trump did not discuss military action against North Korea, nor what would constitute the crossing of a “red line” by Pyongyang, Abe told reporters after his conversation with Trump that repeated efforts by the international community to find a peaceful solution to the North Korean issue had yet to bear fruit in the face of Pyongyang’s unilateral “escalation”. “International society, including Russia and China, need to take this seriously and increase pressure,” Abe said. He added Japan and the United States would take steps towards concrete action but did not give details. Pyongyang is determined to develop its nuclear and missile program and does not care about military threats from the USA and South Korea.  “How could Chinese sanctions change the situation?”

The US officials say while China worries about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, and the US reaction to them, its overriding concern is to avoid a North Korean collapse, which could strengthen US interference in the region send millions of refugees fleeing toward China and lead to a reunified Korea allied with Washington.

Trade

China’s direct investment in the USA quadrupled from 2015 to 2016, to $48 billion annually. The task force this year faces what could well be a record number of deals, many of them controversial as Chinese firms scout USA targets as varied as hotels and film studios to hedge against a weaker yuan.

The purpose of CFIUS, a national security vehicle to try to make sure that high-tech investments by foreign countries don’t steal the US cutting-edge technology, is to contain China. USA has urged changes at CFIUS because of China because it was not North Korea but that China would close the technology gap between the U.S. and Chinese militaries. In an interview with Reuters, the top US counter-intelligence official suggested the Trump administration was already working on a plan to toughen CFIUS. US plan to prohibit CFIUS from approving Chinese deals would be technically legal but would stretch CFIUS’ mandate, What sounds like effectively a bar on Chinese investment that is being suggested is probably legal but quite different than the case-by-case process that CFIUS has used in the past,” said Stephen Heifetz of the law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP who represents clients before CFIUS. The USA government should consider the potential for a Chinese response.”

Meanwhile, the USA flew two supersonic B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula in a show of force in response to the missile test and the July 3 launch of the “Hwasong-14” rocket, the Pentagon said. The bombers took off from a US air base in Guam and were joined by Japanese and South Korean fighter jets during the exercise. “North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability,” Pacific Air Forces commander General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy said in a statement. “If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing.”

Observation: force Israel to dismantle its illegal nukes

One fails to understand how the routine military operations of Iran and North Korea should cause problems for or in USA. If, for instance, Iran and North Korea are made nuclear free can tensions be put to end when Israel continues to boss over West Asia and use its illegally obtained nukes as a serious threat to world peace, particularly in Mideast. 

How can the USA expect China which faces perpetual threat from Washington, to take its orders to boss over a soverign but its ally North Korea by asking it to serve the superpower and give up its legitimate nuclear ambitions, when it is unable to reign in the fascist operations of its close ally Israel in Palestine and Middle East?

Americans are not going to offer any direct answer and nor do we expect any such explanations. But why does Washington expect China to work for Neocons to end abruptly nuclear ambitions of North Korea and why not asks Russia also do that? The Kremlin does not take orders from Washington.

US strategists argue that China will not deter North Korea unless the USA exacts greater economic pressure on China. The USA must send a clear message to China’s government. And hence Trump pushes for the Chinese action. But China’s UN ambassador Liu Jieyi has said that it was up to Washington and Pyongyang to work toward talks on North Korea’s weapons programs.

So, it is all a part of a nuclear drama being staged by UN veto members to terrorize the people of the world. The terrorism operations are also controlled by these big powers.  . 

Ultimately, it all comes to business and China wants both balanced trade with the USA and lasting peace on the Korean peninsula. However, to realize these goals, Beijing needs a more cooperative partner in the White House, not one who piles blame on China for American failures.

Despite the ongoing tests, most experts believe Pyongyang does not yet have the capability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead, fit it on to a long-range missile, and ensure it is protected until delivery to the target. They say many of North Korea’s missiles cannot accurately hit targets. Others, however, believe that at the rate it is going, Pyongyang may overcome these challenges and develop a nuclear weapon within five to 10 years that could strike the USA

UN needs to pass a resolution to put an end to nuclear race and first punish all those powers that have WMD threatening world peace in several regions.

 Israel has amassed WMD illegally with help from USA-UK terror twins but the UN and IAEA have not questioned Israel because USA with veto decides that matter.

Before asking North Korea and Iran to give up their legitimate nuclear ambitions, let Israel be denuclearized first.

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East Asia

Chinese extradition request puts crackdown on Uyghurs in the spotlight

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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A Chinese demand for the extradition of 11 Uyghurs from Malaysia puts the spotlight on China’s roll-out of one of the world’s most intrusive surveillance systems, military moves to prevent Uyghur foreign fighters from returning to Xinjiang, and initial steps to export its security approach to countries like Pakistan.

The 11 were among 25 Uyghurs who escaped from a Thai detention centre in November through a hole in the wall, using blankets to climb to the ground.

The extradition request follows similar deportations of Uyghurs from Thailand and Egypt often with no due process and no immediate evidence that they were militants.

The escapees were among more than 200 Uighurs detained in Thailand in 2014. The Uyghurs claimed they were Turkish nationals and demanded that they be returned to Turkey. Thailand, despite international condemnation, forcibly extradited to China some 100 of the group in July 2015.

Tens of Uyghurs, who were unable to flee to Turkey in time, were detained in Egypt in July and are believed to have also been returned to China. Many of the Uyghurs were students at Al Azhar, one of the foremost institutions of Islamic learning.

China, increasingly concerned that Uyghurs fighters in Syria and Iraq will seek to return to Xinjiang or establish bases across the border in Afghanistan and Tajikistan in the wake of the territorial demise of the Islamic State, has brutally cracked down on the ethnic minority in its strategic north-western province, extended its long arm to the Uyghur Diaspora, and is mulling the establishment of its first land rather than naval foreign military base.

The crackdown appears, at least for now, to put a lid on intermittent attacks in Xinjiang itself. Chinese nationals have instead been targeted in Pakistan, the $50 billion plus crown jewel in China’s Belt and Road initiative that seeks to link Eurasia to the People’s Republic through infrastructure.

The attacks are believed to have been carried out by either Baloch nationalists or militants of the East Turkestan Independence Movement (ETIM), a Uighur separatist group that has aligned itself with the Islamic State.

Various other groups, including the Pakistani Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have threatened to attack Chinese nationals in response to the alleged repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

ETIM militants were believed to have been responsible for the bombing in August 2015 of Bangkok’s Erawan shrine that killed 20 people as retaliation for the forced repatriation of Uighurs a month earlier.

The Chinese embassy in Islamabad warned in December of possible attacks targeting “Chinese-invested organizations and Chinese citizens” in Pakistan

China’s ambassador, Yao Jing, advised the Pakistani interior ministry two months earlier that Abdul Wali, an alleged ETIM assassin, had entered the country and was likely to attack Chinese targets

China has refused to recognize ethnic aspirations of Uyghurs, a Turkic group, and approached it as a problem of Islamic militancy. Thousands of Uyghurs are believed to have joined militants in Syria, while hundreds or thousands more have sought to make their way through Southeast Asia to Turkey.

To counter ethnic and religious aspirations, China has introduced what must be the world’s most intrusive surveillance system using algorithms. Streets in Xinjiang’s cities and villages are pockmarked by cameras; police stations every 500 metres dot roads in major cities; public buildings resemble fortresses; and authorities use facial recognition and body scanners at highway checkpoints.

The government, in what has the makings of a re-education program, has opened boarding schools “for local children to spend their entire week in a Chinese-speaking environment, and then only going home to parents on the weekends,” according to China scholar David Brophy. Adult Uyghurs, who have stuck to their Turkic language, have been ordered to study Chinese at night schools.

Nightly television programs feature oath-swearing ceremonies,” in which participants pledge to root out “two-faced people,” the term used for Uyghur Communist Party members who are believed to be not fully devoted to Chinese policy.

The measures in Xinjiang go beyond an Orwellian citizen scoring system that is being introduced that scores a person’s political trustworthiness. The system would determine what benefits a citizen is entitled to, including access to credit, high speed internet service and fast-tracked visas for travel based on data garnered from social media and online shopping data as well as scanning of irises and content on mobile phones at random police checks.

Elements of the system are poised for export. A long-term Chinese plan for China’s investment in Pakistan, dubbed the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), envisioned creating a system of monitoring and surveillance in Pakistani cities to ensure law and order.

The system envisions deployment of explosive detectors and scanners to “cover major roads, case-prone areas and crowded places…in urban areas to conduct real-time monitoring and 24-hour video recording.”

A national fibre optic backbone would be built for internet traffic as well as the terrestrial distribution of broadcast media. Pakistani media would cooperate with their Chinese counterparts in the “dissemination of Chinese culture.”

The plan described the backbone as a “cultural transmission carrier” that would serve to “further enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples and the traditional friendship between the two countries.”

The measures were designed to address the risks to CPEC that the plan identified as “Pakistani politics, such as competing parties, religion, tribes, terrorists, and Western intervention” as well as security. “The security situation is the worst in recent years,” the plan said.

At the same time, China, despite official denials, is building, according to Afghan security officials, a military base for the Afghan military that would give the People’s Republic a presence in Badakhshan, the remote panhandle of Afghanistan that borders China and Tajikistan.

Chinese military personnel have reportedly been in the mountainous Wakhan Corridor, a narrow strip of territory in north-eastern Afghanistan that extends to China and separates Tajikistan from Pakistan since March last year.

The importance China attributes to protecting itself against Uyghur militancy and extending its protective shield beyond its borders was reflected in the recent appointment as its ambassador to Afghanistan, Liu Jinsong, who was raised in Xinjiang and served as a director of the Belt and Road initiative’s $15 billion Silk Road Fund.

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Quiet Diplomacy in the Midst of Storm: Olympics and the Peninsula Nuclear Standoff

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A memorial dedicated to reunification of North and South Korea at the entrance to Pyongyang

In late December, Choi Moon-soon, the governor of the province in South Korea hosting the Winter Olympics met the North Korean officials accompanying the under-15 Ari Sports Cup tournament team from the North in Kunming, China to discuss the possible participation in the Olympics by the North. Little did the world expect to come out of that meeting; in fact, expressing his skepticism, Mr. Choi stated “We were looking for any contact with North Korea, and the youth soccer teams were the only inter-Korean exchange still going on.”

Notably, soon after Choi’s overture, the leaders of the two nations made vital gestures of cooperation. In a television interview, the South’s President, Moon Jae-in, hinted that he would encourage the adjourning of the annual joint military drills with the United States — an inimitable gesture of optimism. This is exactly what the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has repeatedly condemned. Consequence to this overture, Mr. Kim, declared at the flinch of the year that his athletes would participate in the Olympics under the same flag with the South – the unification flag.

All this comes amidst high tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula. Indeed, the presence of the North in Seoul was the result of months of low profile discussions and “niche diplomacy” with the purpose of urging Pyongyang to attend the Olympics. Interestingly, it was during the same period that the DPRK once again tested its latest intercontinental ballistic missile, Hwasong-15, which it claims to be an indication of the completion of Pyongyang’s nuclear statehood, thus becoming a full blown nuclear state. This new development is described as a great success due to its capability of reaching the entire U.S. mainland. Could it be that the North is just being smart whereas the South is subtly being hypnotized or even hoodwinked? Should the Olympics’ “diplomatic bridge” be allowed a chance to, for the first time, denuclearize the Korean peninsula (theoretically speaking)? Should the nuclear brouhaha that has occupied the world politics and almost reached a brinkmanship be given a second chance as the world converge at the heart of the tension?

Today, the two Koreans are participating in the Games as one team, howbeit, demonstrations and protest from some sections of the South Korean populace. Indeed, skepticism from great powers, particularly the USA has soared and warnings cautioning the South’s President to disentangle himself from the North’s enchantment have kept trickling in every now and then. With both President Trump and President Kim threatening to use the “nuclear buttons on their tables” the possibility of war on the Korean Peninsula outshined the Olympic preparations, and the eminent catastrophe frightened fans and athletes alike. Some nations were even hesitant in sending their nationals to the games altogether.

“We cannot be complacent,” said Tillerson, “The pressure campaign will continue until North Korea takes decisive steps to de-nuclearize.” Tillerson made these remarks at a summit on North Korea’s nuclear threat held in Vancouver, less than a month to the Winter Olympics in South Korea. “This is a strategy that has and will require patience, but, thanks to your support, the regime is already facing costs it is having difficulty bearing,” Tillerson reiterated. This is an obvious indication that the West and other world leaders are not resting on their oars in terms of denuclearizing the DPRK.

In other to lessen the tension and alley fears, organizers of the Games concluded that the North had to be persuaded to participate in the Games. There is no doubt that if the North joined the Games, the eminent security tension would ease dramatically. After all, “we share power to share the responsibility to protect.” South Korea has therefore turned a potential liability — Pyeongchang’s propinquity to the world’s most profoundly armed border into “a gamble of hope”, despite initial strong objection by other nations.

Significantly, Kim Yo Jong, the first in the Kim regime to have ever visited the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, came with an unusual proposal from the brother, requesting President Moon Jae-in to accept an invitation to visit Pyongyang for talks with his North Korean counterpart. This diplomatic conundrum could be seen as a necessary evil that could be a defining moment for Moon’s leadership, especially in the wake of warnings and protests from within and outside South Korea, doubting the candidness of the North’s gestures. If the meeting took place, it would be the first North-South summit on the peninsula since 2007. In as much as it would be a diplomatic breakthrough for the Moon administration, which came to power with the promise of unfettering icy relations with the North, it could also strain relations with the United States, which has already expressed its objection to the recent overtures between the two Koreans. The principal opposition party in South Korea, the Liberty Korea Party, has also retorted the meeting would only “benefit the enemy”.  “We should firmly keep in mind that any talks where denuclearization is not a precondition only to buy North Korea more time to complete its nuclear capabilities while they fool us with their peace offensive facade,” party spokesman Chang Je-won cautioned. Japanese Prime Minister’s Shinzo Abe has indicated that “Now is not the time to postpone US-South Korea military exercises. It is important to move forward with the drills as planned.” The Blue House, however, deems the issue an internal affair and feel the South’s position is much more important. China on its part has maintained its insistence on given peace and reconciliation a chance on the Korean Peninsula.

It is worth noting that, the issue is both internal and global, particularly when it involves nuclear arsenals capable of hitting targets beyond the peninsula. Besides, the fact that it has something to do with great power balancing, geopolitics, global politics and security alone, makes it a global issue.

Now, what matters is whether Seoul’s allies should support Moon’s efforts at pursuing his policies of reconciliation, or put the screws back on to Pyongyang. Perhaps, Kissinger’s “secret or quiet diplomacy” in the early 70s could help answer this boggling question. Dr. Kissinger’s diplomacy came through amidst distrust, isolation and sanctions, yet, peace coupled with reconciliation was possible when given a chance. This paved the way for President Nixon’s historic visit and culminated in the historic turn toward normalization in 1972.Today, the US and China are important trade and “security” partners. Again, it must be made clear that the South is not canvassing for the lifting of the sanctions; neither is Seoul demanding that intelligence sharing on the clandestine activities of the North should be put on hold. Denuclearization of the Peninsula should be of utmost importance to all powers, both small and great- to eschew a nuclear catastrophe and massive nuclear armament in the region. However, the panacea should not only be focused on coercion, other peaceful means such as what the Olympics has precipitated ought to be embraced as well.

Indeed, recalling the spirit of the Olympic truce of the ancient Greeks, officials and world leaders have often viewed the “Peace Games” as means to promoting reconciliation among nations, and the Korean Peninsula would be no exception. As Bach, president of IOC, acknowledged, “The Games can send a powerful message of peace to the world.” The Ministry of Unification should therefore be given the opportunity to pursue this new path of South-North overtures, though not without upholding the tipping point sanctions.

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East Asia

May the Olympic peace prevailing over the nuclear phantom

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Authors: Zhou Dong-chen & Wang Li

On February 9, the 2018 Winter Olympics began sensationally in Pyeong-Chang, South Korea. The world media once again focused on the Korean Peninsula, yet, this time is the Olympic Game instead of the war game between North and South Koreas. To certain extent, the event offered moments of euphoria. As Bach, President of IOC, declared that “the Games can send a powerful message of peace to the world”.

No doubt, peace never comes easily and cheaply as well. One can argue that there held two inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007 respectively, their athletes also waved unified flags aloft in Sydney and their unified-teams competed at the other Olympic Games. Even people thought these meetings and unified efforts at the Olympic Games as the signals of a beautiful friendship, but their hopes did not last long. Tensions in the Korean Peninsula soon resumed. In light of this, the new euphoria on the Peninsula has aroused a political debate between liberals and conservatives on the Korean issues.

Liberal opinion represented by Moon Chung-in argues that the Olympics should be an opportunity for negotiation with North Korea, a process they understand will take time and is unlikely to run smoothly. But they insist that this opportunity should be seized and that Washington should lend a hand and support the negotiation process, even if that means delaying the yearly military drill or abstaining from any military attack on North Korea. As a result, liberals called for efforts to create the right conditions to realize such a visit and urged Pyongyang to actively seek dialogue with the United States.

Yet, to conservative scholars headed by Kim Young-ho, they openly criticized the current President’s liberal policy towards the North. Consider the past experiences in dealing with the North, they argued now is not the time for concessions towards the North and that the sanctions placed on it should continue and even be increased. Their concern also goes to any economic assistance that might be promised by Seoul to Pyongyang during negotiations will undermine the effectiveness of the sanctions and allow Pyongyang to continue developing its nuclear and missile capabilities. This actually echoes the U.S. belief that the diplomatic drive by Pyongyang tries to weaken the measures against it and eventually to loosen the alliance between the Seoul and Washington. Therefore, Vice President Pence reiterated in public remarks that North Korea has to “put denuclearization on the negotiation table and take concrete steps with the world community to dismantle, permanently and irreversibly, their nuclear and ballistic missile programs.” Put it bluntly, “Denuclearization has to be the starting point of any change in Pyongyang.”

From the beginning, President Moon Jae-in has made a great deal of effort to persuade Kim Jong-un to send the North Korean team to participate in the Pyeong-Chang Winter Olympics. To that end, part of Moon’s effort involved persuading Washington to ease its anti-Kim rhetoric. As a result, Kim finally decided to participate in the Games to maximize the gains it would be able to accumulate following its achievement of credible deterrence via its ICBM with a nuclear warhead. It is believed that the Pyeong-Chang Olympics, followed by the Paralympics Games, should delay the next potential crisis until the end of March 2018, at which time the issue of the US-South Korea joint military drill will come back to the table. North Korea has demanded that South Korea not participate in this exercise. So far, no one can assure all the parties involved will do next simply because the United States was willing to postpone it until after the Olympics, but it will not approve a further request by Seoul to postpone for the sake of inter-Korean negotiations. Given this, President Moon will soon face the dilemma as follows: either participate in the military drill and terminate the dialogue with Pyongyang, or delay the drill, continue the dialogue, and intensify the dispute with Washington. That is evidently uncertain so far.

In a long run, South Korea can’t disengage itself from the United States but also has little chance of convincing Washington not to pursue such a stern policy toward North Korea. Yet, peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means. Because North Korea will not change or abandon its nuclear plan by overnight, all sides concerned should continue their efforts to persuade Pyongyang to return to the right side of history through joining rather than deserting the international community. In view of this, China’s leadership has demonstrated its will, wisdom and strength. During the state visit of President Moon Jae-in to China in December 2017, President Xi reiterated that China and ROK must firmly adhere to the goal of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and no war or chaos is allowed on the Peninsula. Due to this, China can only accept that the Peninsula would be resolved through diplomacy and it is ready to support two Koreas to improve their relations through talks. In his response to Xi, Moon reaffirms that Seoul is firmly committed to resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue through peaceful means, and stands ready to work with China to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the region. On January 8, Moon formally announced that the United States and the ROK agreed to delay joint military exercise during the Pyeong-Chang Winter Olympics. No matter how is has been debated, it is surely a good start.

In international relations, legitimacy is usually built on the consensus between countries. Moon’s vow to work closely with China assures that peace remains there. As long as the key countries involved endorse peace, it is held that the spirit of the Olympics is bound to prevail over the nuclear phantom through multilateral dialogue in light of mutual respect and reciprocal benefits. Thus, Bach’s remark of “a powerful message of peace to the world” would be turned into a reality of peace.

 

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