On February 7, 2016 (Juche 105), the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un orbited an earth observation satellite called Kwangmyonsong-4. This launch is part of the North Korea’s five-year plan for aerospace development – a project to which the North Korean leader attaches great relevance.
It is the other part – the most important and technologically independent part – of North Korea’s non-conventional military system.The three-stage carrier rocket blasted off from the Sohae Space Centre in the Cholsan County, North Pyongyan Province, at 9 a.m. local time on February 7 and entered its present orbit at 9.09:46 a,m., 9 minutes and 46 seconds after the lift-off.
The satellite revolves round the polar orbit at 494.6 km perigee altitude and at 500 km apogee altitude at a tilt angle of 97.4 degrees.
The satellite cycle is 94 minutes and 24 seconds.
Measuring equipment and telecommunications apparatuses were installed in the earth observation satellite called Kwangmyonsong-4.
Moreover, after the separation of the carrier stages, the third component of the missile was immediately broken apart into about 270 fragments, so as to prevent South Korea from discovering and recovering it, thus inferring its characteristics.
The first stage fell onto the area that North Korea had indicated to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the second reached up to the Philippines’s East coast.
The “Bright Star” satellite (this is exactly what its name means in Korean language) even flew over the stadium in which the Superbowl had taken place – one hour after the end of the sport event, in an area very close to the Silicon Valley.
The Unha rocket that launched the “Bright Star” into space orbit is also a version of Taepodong-2, the nuclear carrier which can hit targets up to 4,000-4,500 kilometres.
Hence it was an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), which has immediately alarmed Japan, the United States and, of course, South Korea.
What is the use of the satellite structure, over and above demonstrating the high quality achieved by North Korean science and technology?
According to the news currently coming from North Korea, the satellite will monitor weather conditions and will explore forest resources and the availability of raw materials which are still interesting for the North Korean government.
The other satellite already in orbit is only calibrated to manage telecommunications.
Nevertheless, what is the use of the North Korean overall missile and nuclear strategy, in addition to obviously increasing the prestige and security of that regime?
We can rationally assume some motivations.
Firstly, it would be a military or technological action designed to obtaining special concessions at diplomatic and international levels so as to stabilize its political system.
North Korea is afraid of melting in the globalization of its geopolitical region – hence of losing strategic, military and economic privileges currently enabling it to have its large military build up.
Hence a large amount of missile and nuclear technology to offset the threat against countries, starting from South Korea, which maintain a certainly more relevant financial and production structure than North Korea’s.
Secondly, for North Korea the use of technologically-advanced weapons and the constant threat of their use mean forcibly internationalize the historical crisis of the entire Korean peninsula, still divided along the 38th parallel, so as to put this issue high both on the US and Chinese agendas.
My friend Bob Gallucci remembers all too well that the negotiations with North Korea in 1994 and 2003 were based on the comparative reliability and rationality of that regime, which could accept a reduction of its nuclear arsenal in exchange for the construction of a large nuclear power plant.
And, above all, in exchange for the recognition of its stability and political autonomy.
Gallucci’s deal failed also due to the US reluctance to accept a negotiating line with North Korea which, in fact, finally walked out of the final agreement.
North Korea still pays great attention to the US moves. Any action taken by the North Korean regime is always a coded message conveyed to the United States to clearly show that North Korea can negotiate seriously only at a specific condition: to be a full member of the Asian system, on an equal footing and with the same dignity as Japan’s and South Korea’s.
But only with the explicit mediation and brokerage of China, the United States and, above all, the Russian Federation, the only one which can really negotiate an effective agreement between North Korea and the major global and regional powers.
Only Russia can interact with the DPRK in order to instil confidence in the Korean counterparts on the reliability and stability of negotiations. Only Russia can guarantee the effects of a future agreement – also at militarily level.
Russia is far enough away not to worry the regional powers and it is reliable for North Korea which has never included it in the list of its enemies. It is a credible power both for the United States, which certainly cannot do much with the DPRK, and for China, which is not worried by this new guarantee role played by Russia on the Korean peninsula.
Moreover the DPRK has the primary need to stabilize its political regime, which has not the economic bases for a peaceful power projection.
Furthermore, North Korea’s military system is calibrated to prevent any direct internal political destabilization attempts made by external enemies.
In the history of military nuclear power, North Korea’s is the first case in which these defence technologies are used primarily to preserve its own internal political system.
Obviously North Korea’s nuclear power has also a compensatory function: to offset – with its non-conventional ABC weapons – the inevitable tactical and logistical weaknesses of its conventional military system.
A system which, however, must ever more shrink in volume to make available the resources necessary for the development of the economy – and it is well-known that the nuclear threat is cheaper than the traditional conventional build up.
The first DPRK nuclear test dates back to October 2006.
Right away, the UN Security Council issued a series of Resolutions which lasted until 2013.
Tough and consistent economic sanctions certainly increased the costs of North Korea’s nuclear program and were a good example for all the countries which wished to imitate the DPKR “isolationist” strategy.
In the specific case of North Korea, however, the sanction system did not lead to any significant results.
Indeed, in 2015 North Korea reaffirmed the goal of byungjin, namely the “parallel development” of domestic economy and nuclear deterrence.
In principle, sanctions slow down the military development we want to prevent, but do not stop it.
Just centralize – as North Korea has done – military and economic planning, as well as operate outside the international channels for the acquisition of “sensitive” technologies.
It is also worth recalling that the sanctions imposed on North Korea were calibrated for a “rational political operator”.
For the DPRK this meant that the benefits inherent in negotiating would be greater than the costs of an autonomous action and of a negotiating stalemate.
This was not the case: political systems do not always follow the political science rule of rational choice, but they are often interested in operating as free riders that gain more from the isolated refusal of the collective action benefits – according to Mancur Olson’s theory – than from the distribution of the profits resulting from the collective action itself.
It is always the same old problem mentioned by Glaucon in Plato’s Republic (Book 2, 360 b-c) whether compliance with the laws is intimately connected with the unavoidability of sanctions.
If sometimes we can avoid being subjected to the “hard yoke of the law”, it becomes also rational to operate as if the rules do not exist, as a free rider, if we consider that the benefit of the isolated action is much greater than the loss incurred in implementing the law.
In any case, the sanctions put in place by the United States on the DPRK have indeed increased the North Korean cost of any unlawful procurement of nuclear technologies abroad, but have not made it impossible.
This is because, at first, it is possible also for North Korea to act at the level of international law, for another very important reason: China’s non-cooperation.
Obviously China has no intention of negatively affecting its equilibriums with North Korea.
For China the DPRK is a future – albeit full – contributor to its economic expansion towards the West, with the Belt and Road Initiative, and China has no intention of destabilizing a region which would create unimaginable demographic, security, economic and strategic dangers for it.
North Korea is indeed a strategic “belt” for the defence against the “foreign dogs” of South-Western Chinese borders, as well as an unavoidable axis for the protection of its routes in the South China Sea.
Moreover China does not fear the DPRK’s nuclear arsenal since it knows all too well it could respond immediately and decisively to any possible attack from the North Korean territory.
Hence, with a view to persuading China, we need to shift from an old sanction regime to broader negotiations – hence to a partial recognition of a North Korean strategic and economic status in the Asian regional system and in relation to Japan (and Taiwan, too).
Moreover while, even within the 2003-2009 Six Party Talks between the DPRK, the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, sanctions had not the opportunity of creating a diplomatic thread in the short- medium term, the sanction system becomes ineffective and useless, since North Korea simply regards its existence as a cost, and the implicit threat inherent in sanctions loses its effectiveness.
If you can never know how to check the effects of negotiations, you might as well not hold them.
In order to start talking effectively with North Korea, we have to explicitly clarify – and hence we must, at first, really convince North Korea – that no one is interested in a regime change in the DPRK.
At a later stage, after a series of confidence-building operations, we must prevent North Korea from always using – as happened so far – the heaviest card in each strategic and negotiating sector.
The geopolitical rodomontade and vainglorious boast can be rational today, but it would become self-destructive and self-defeating for North Korea in the future.
Therefore we must ensure that a new regional security climate enables the DPRK’s leaders to implement a less muscular foreign policy.
We must not call for North Korea’s complete denuclearization, but we must consider in parallel North Korea’s non-conventional arsenal and China’s deterrence and the North Korean regime’s opening to global economy in positive terms.
Always with the Russian mediation and brokerage.
If all this does not happen, being a free rider will become a rational choice for the DPRK.
Assad’s visit to China: Breaking diplomatic isolation and rebuilding Syria
The visit of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to China to participate in the opening of the Asian Games came as a serious step to try to break the diplomatic isolation from Syria. Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” was keen to meet his counterpart Xi Jinping in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China, where the Asian Games are being held, as this was the Syrian president’s first visit to China since 2004. According to the Syrian regime’s Al-Watan newspaper, Al-Assad will attend the launch ceremony of the (nineteenth edition) of the Asian Games, which will open on September 23, in the Chinese city of Hangzhou. This visit to Bashar al-Assad reflects the great coordination between Moscow and Beijing, as it is likely that the Russians pushed for this visit at this precise time. Perhaps, through his visit to China, Bashar al-Assad is trying to deliver a specific message about the start of “international legitimization” of his regime. Syria’s accession to the Belt and Road Initiative in January 2022 is an indication of the possibility of implementing vital Chinese projects, especially since it is located between Iraq and Turkey, making it a vital corridor for land routes towards Europe.
Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to China also comes in an attempt to attract it to reconstruction projects in the affected areas in Syria, as China has the ability to complete reconstruction infrastructure in residential and civilian areas with exceptional speed. This is the same as what the Chinese ambassador to Syria “Shi Hongwei” announced in August 2023, that “Chinese companies are actively involved in reconstruction projects in Syria”. The war in Syria led to massive destruction of infrastructure and the destruction of many vital sectors of the Syrian economy, including oil, while the Syrian government is subject to harsh international sanctions. We find that the Chinese side has shown great interest in the reconstruction projects in Surba, such as the presence of more than a thousand Chinese companies to participate in (the first trade exhibition on Syrian reconstruction projects in Beijing), while they pledged investments estimated at two billion dollars.
China played an active role through diplomatic movements in Syria, as it participated in the “Astana” process, and obstructed Security Council resolutions related to Syria, to confirm its position in support of Damascus, using its veto power more than once in the Security Council, against resolutions considered to be a blow to Assad’s “legitimacy”. In September 2017, the Syrian regime classified China, along with Russia and Iran, as “friendly governments” that would give priority to reconstruction projects. Therefore, Al-Assad affirmed during his meeting with Chinese President “Xi Jinping” that: “this visit is important in terms of its timing and circumstances, as a multipolar world is being formed today that will restore balance and stability to the world, and it is the duty of all of us to seize this moment for the sake of a bright and promising future”.
According to my analysis, China follows the policy of “breaking diplomatic isolation on presidents and countries against which America is angry”, so the visit of “Bashar al-Assad” comes within a series of visits that China witnessed during the current year in 2023, to presidents who are isolated internationally by the United States of America, such as: Venezuelan President “Nicolas Maduro”, the Iranian President ”Ibrahim Raisi”, and the Belarusian “Alexander Lukashenko”.
China is also keen to conduct interviews in its newspapers and official websites affiliated with the ruling Communist Party with many presidents and officials of countries isolated internationally and diplomatically by the United States of America and the West, such as the Chinese keenness to conduct and publish an interview with Syrian Foreign Minister “Faisal Mekdad” on September 21, 2023, and the Chinese reviewed his statements, saying that “the United States of America has plundered oil, natural gas, and other resources from Syria, causing losses worth $115 billion”. The Chinese newspaper “Global Times”, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, also focused on the United States’ greater role in the deterioration of “Syria from stability to chaos” . The Chinese newspaper compared this to China’s policy, which constantly calls for peaceful dialogue and opposes “foreign interference” .
Through his visit to China, Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” is trying to lay the foundations for joint cooperation between China and Syria within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, with full Chinese support for Syria’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a dialogue partner. China has always affirmed its firm support for Syria’s efforts against foreign interference, with the Chinese rejection of the stationing of illegal forces on Syrian territory. China is also making great efforts with many countries to lift sanctions and the illegal economic blockade on the Syrian people, in addition to Chinese support for building Syrian capabilities in the field of combating terrorism. Knowing that despite its alliance with President “Bashar Al-Assad”, China did not participate in supporting him militarily, but it used the right of criticism to obstruct the passage of resolutions against him in the Security Council.
We can reach an important conclusion that Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to China has a greater political track, and that Beijing is trying to play a greater role in the issue of resolving conflicts or to have a greater actual role in negotiations related to sensitive issues in the region. The implications of Assad’s visit to China are also politically significant, as China is trying to play a greater political role in the region, as China has been trying since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the emergence of a vacuum in the Middle East as a result of the decline of Russian influence due to its preoccupation with the war, so Beijing is trying to expand in the Middle East and Africa.
China’s Inclusive Diplomacy for Global Cooperation
President Xi Jinping’s address at the recently held 2023 CIFTIS resonates as a powerful call for inclusive development and cooperation in the services trade sector. China’s commitment to expanding market access, increasing connectivity, and aligning policies with global standards demonstrates its commitment to ensuring a level playing field for all nations.
This commitment extends across different sectors, including telecommunications, tourism, law, vocational examinations, and the larger services sector. President Xi’s address emphasized China’s intention to expand broader, broaden market access, and support inclusive development in the services trade sector. His sentiments resonate with the global world as China seeks to create new prospects for openness, cooperation, and economic equality.
Over the last few decades, the services trade landscape has changed drastically, becoming an essential component of international business. However, this expansion has not been uniform, with developing countries frequently encountering difficulties such as limited market access, complex rules, and capacity limits that prevent them from fully participating in international services trade.
Notably, China is committed to promoting inclusive growth in the services trade sector. It assured of taking continuing steps to accelerate Chinese modernization through high-quality development, to open up new avenues for openness and collaboration for all countries.
Through openness, cooperation, innovation, and shared services, China emphasized the need for inclusive growth and connectivity. Recognizing that a rising tide in services trade should raise all boats, particularly those from nations with limited resources, China has launched a series of ground-breaking initiatives. Additionally, China is actively expanding its network of high-standard free trade areas, participating in negotiations on the negative list for trade in services and investment.
China is setting an example by aligning its policies with international standards. President Xi highlighted in his speech that national integrated demonstration zones for increased openness in the services sector, suitable pilot free trade zones, and free trade ports will be at the forefront of aligning policies with high-standard international economic and trade regulations. These zones demonstrate China’s commitment to fostering an atmosphere conducive to international cooperation and growth.
Real-world examples vividly demonstrate the practical impact of China’s assistance to developing countries in the services trade. China’s investments in transport infrastructure, such as the Standard Gauge Railway, have considerably facilitated the flow of goods and people in Kenya, boosting the services sector indirectly.
Pakistan’s experience with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is similar, with improved physical connectivity catalyzing the expansion of digital services and e-commerce. Various infrastructure developments in Indonesia have resulted in spectacular advances, opening up new potential for services trade.
Ethiopia, too, has reaped the benefits of China’s commitment, with active participation in industrial parks reviving the services sector, which includes logistics, banking, and education. These real-life success stories highlight China’s critical role in facilitating the expansion and development of services trade in developing countries.
China’s commitment to capacity building and technical aid is critical in its support for developing countries in the services trade. China provides these countries with the knowledge and skills they need to participate effectively in the services trade by offering specialized programs. Furthermore, China’s significant investments in infrastructure projects such as ports, logistical hubs, and telecommunications networks play an important role in facilitating the smooth flow of services.
Furthermore, China’s commitment to reducing entry barriers and optimizing regulations indicates the country’s persistent commitment to creating an equitable environment. This approach not only promotes equitable possibilities but also simplifies market access, making it easier for developing countries to export their services to China’s enormous and dynamic market.
Furthermore, China gives significant financial support in the form of loans and grants for service trade-related initiatives, recognizing the financial problems that many developing countries confront. This financial assistance enables nations to overcome economic challenges and invest in the expansion and improvement of their service sectors, thereby encouraging economic equality and cooperation.
As the world continues to evolve, services trade will play an increasingly important role in global economic growth, and China’s leadership in this realm is helping to shape a future where opportunities are shared, disparities are reduced, and cooperation knows no bounds. It is a vision worthy of appreciation and support since it is consistent with the ideals of justice and equality, moving the globe closer to a more linked and wealthy global community.
China’s Multilateral Engagement and Constructive Role in the G20
The recent G20 Summit in India has once again taken center stage, attracting global attention as it gathered together leaders and delegates from the world’s 20 most powerful economies. This high-profile event was significant in shaping international relations and addressing serious global concerns due to its broad presence and crucial talks. This high-stakes gathering occurs at a pivotal juncture, marked by escalating divisions among major powers on a multitude of pressing global issues, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict, global economic recovery, food security, and climate change.
The recent inclusion of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member within the G20 serves as a positive signal, signifying consensus among major economies. However, lurking concerns persist about the formidable challenges involved in achieving unity and issuing a joint declaration in the midst of these complex global dynamics.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s opening remarks at the 18th G20 Summit in New Delhi resonate as he underscores the paramount importance of unity and collaboration among G20 member nations. He emphasizes the critical need for effective coordination of macroeconomic policies to restore hope and generate momentum for long-term economic growth.
Premier Li eloquently highlights the interconnectedness of humanity’s destiny and calls upon nations to demonstrate mutual respect, seek common ground while momentarily setting aside differences, and work tirelessly towards peaceful coexistence. In a world characterized by profound crises and shared hardships, he aptly observes that no nation can thrive in isolation. Therefore, the only plausible pathways for guiding humanity forward are those rooted in cooperation and harmony.
The G20, originally established to navigate global financial crises and forge collective strategies for addressing economic challenges while fostering global economic development, has, regrettably, experienced a decline in consensus and a rise in differences among major powers. This shift has been particularly evident since the onset of the Ukraine crisis and the United States’ strategy of containment against China. Consequently, the G20 is increasingly devolving into a forum marked by discord, rather than the once-productive and constructive multilateral mechanism it was intended to be.
Nevertheless, the G20 retains its significance as a pivotal forum for international collaboration in confronting global challenges. With the increasing contributions of developing nations like China, India, and African countries, the voices within the G20 have diversified, no longer solely dominated by Western perspectives. As a response, the United States seeks to regain control of the multilateral process to further its agenda of great power competition. However, this approach is unlikely to be warmly received by the broader international community.
China remains steadfast in its commitment to deepen reforms and open up further to foster high-quality development and its unique brand of modernization. China views itself as a catalyst for additional momentum in global economic recovery and sustainable development. China stands ready to collaborate with all stakeholders to contribute to the well-being of our shared Earth, our common home, and the future of humanity. Despite Western media’s attempts to sensationalize China’s stance and magnify perceived differences, China continues to play a constructive role within the G20, dedicated to its multilateral mission.
To ensure that the G20 remains a platform focused on global governance rather than being overshadowed by geopolitical conflicts, China remains determined to fulfill its constructive role within the group, regardless of attempts by Western powers to politicize the mechanism. China’s efforts have expanded the G20 to include the African Union, effectively transforming it into the “G21.” China was the first nation to endorse African Union membership in the G20 and advocates for the African Union to assume an even more significant role in international governance.
The growing divisions and disputes within the G20 have eroded its effectiveness as a platform for addressing global challenges. These divisions, primarily driven by American actions and policies, have spawned tensions with far-reaching global implications, from the Ukraine crisis to escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea. These developments underscore the critical role the G20 plays in promoting cooperation and unity.
Amid the current geopolitical landscape characterized by major powers’ divisions, tensions have surged, resonating globally and causing ripple effects. From the Ukraine crisis to tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, the significance of the G20’s role in fostering cooperation and unity cannot be overstated.
All G20 member nations must recognize the urgent imperative of cooperation in building a world that is safer, more prosperous, and increasingly peaceful. Given the global challenges that transcend narrow national interests, effective responses can only be crafted through international cooperation. The G20 stands as a pivotal arena for this cooperation, with China’s positive contribution being indispensable in promoting cohesion.
Despite Western media’s efforts to sensationalize China’s position and magnify perceived gaps, China remains a committed multilateral partner within the G20, dedicated to constructive engagement. The G20 continues to serve as a critical platform for addressing global concerns, fostering unity, and promoting international collaboration. As the world grapples with intricate issues, it remains imperative that nations adhere to the principles of multilateralism and collaborate relentlessly to secure a more prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable future for all.
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