[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap]t the outset it should be made clear that none of the nuclear nations is eager to achieve total denuclearization and disarmament and none wants to dismantle its own nuclear arsenals after having spent so much hard resources on their development and tests. But America does not want those countries that do not obey the Pentagon to have nukes as deterrence.
America continues to beat about the bush with its usual double–speaks on crucial issues like disarmament and denuclearization; It actively supports nuclearization of its allies and “friends” while opposing and threatening some select countries like North Korea purely on ideological grounds. USA decides which country should have nukes and which not.
USA does not consider nuclear arsenals of Israel, obtained illegally from USA against the will of the IAEA and UN, but objects the nuclear weapons of North Korea and Iran. So long as Israel is allowed by USA, EU, UNSC, NATO etc to maintain nuclear weapons to threaten Arab nations and Palestinians (indirectly even European nations), any attempt to stop North Korea form manufacturing nukes to defend itself from enemy misadventures is illogical and sufficiently foolish.
North Korea has a right to have nukes for security purposes at par with other nations, including Israel. North Korea has been an ally of Russia and China. USA has an obligation to protect its NATO allies like South Korea and pretends to unhappy about North Korean efforts to testing their latest missile systems and pursuing its nuclear objectives.
A close ally of China and Russia, tensions have risen in the region amid fears the North is planning new weapons tests. The Americans are deeply concerned about advances in North Korea’s weapons technology; they believe it could well be capable of hitting the United States with a nuclear warhead before the end of President Trump’s first term. North Korea’s missile arsenal has progressed over the decades from crude artillery rockets derived from World War II designs, to medium-range missiles able to strike targets in the Pacific Ocean.
North Korea’s latest efforts appear focused on building reliable long-range missiles, which may have the potential to reach the mainland United States. Two types of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) known as the KN-08 and KN-14, have been observed at various military parades since 2012. Carried and launched from the back of a modified truck, the three-stage KN-08 is believed to have a range of about 11,500km.The KN-14 appears to be a two-stage missile, with a possible range of around 10,000km.
Neither missile has yet been flight tested, but recent images have shown engine trials under way and what appears to be a heat shield for a warhead being tested. Despite this apparent progress, North Korea is still thought to lack the ability to accurately target a city with an ICBM, or miniaturize a nuclear warhead.
Other developments have escalated tensions in recent weeks: North Korea executed a failed missile launch and held a massive military parade in an apparent show of strength; The US has deployed a group of warships and a submarine to the region; Pyongyang has reacted angrily to this, threatening a “super-mighty pre-emptive strike”; The US has begun installing a controversial $1bn (£775m) anti-missile system called Thaad in South Korea – which Trump said South Korea should pay for. Seoul said on Friday that there was “no change” in its position that the US pays for it; Tillerson and US Vice President Mike Pence have visited South Korea, reiterating that “all options are on the table” in dealing with the North; Earlier on Thursday, Tillerson said China has again urged North Korea to refrain from carrying out more tests.
Earlier, Russia’s Vladimir Putin called for the resumption of talks with North Korea as tensions on the peninsula continue to escalate. Speaking in Moscow, where he met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he urged those involved to “refrain from using belligerent rhetoric”.
US hit list
USA wants every nation to work under the Pentagon-CIA supervision and does exactly what Washington asks them to do. North Korea has been among its hit list nations. In 2012, North Korea has agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, as well as nuclear and long-range missile tests, following talks with the USA.
North Korea has carried out repeated missile tests in recent months and is threatening to conduct its sixth nuclear test.
The US State Department said Pyongyang had also agreed to allow UN inspectors to monitor its reactor in Yongbyon to verify compliance with the measures. In return, the US is finalizing 240,000 tonnes of food aid for the North. The move comes two months after Kim Jong-un came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il. The move could pave the way for the resumption of six-party disarmament negotiations with Pyongyang, which last broke down in 2009.
Earlier, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said the US still had “profound concerns” over North Korea, but welcomed the move as a “first step”. “On the occasion of Kim Jong-il’s death, I said that it is our hope that the new leadership will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by living up to its obligations.”Today’s announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction.”
North Korea confirmed the move in a foreign ministry statement released in Pyongyang. The statement, carried by the KCNA news agency, said the measures were “aimed at building confidence for the improvement of relations” between the two countries, and said talks would continue. “Both the DPRK [North Korea] and the US affirmed that it is in mutual interest to ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, improve the relations between the DPRK and the US, and push ahead with the denuclearization through dialogue and negotiations,” it said. Yukiya Amano, director general of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the announcement was “an important step forward” and that inspectors stood ready to return to North Korea, Reuters reports.
Earlier, a senior US military official said the issue of food aid for North Korea was now linked to political progress – contradicting earlier policy. The North has suffered persistent food shortages since a famine in the 1990s, and relies on foreign aid to feed its people. North Korea agreed in 2005 to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for aid and political concessions, as part of a six-nation dialogue process involving the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan. But progress on the deal was stop-start, and the agreement broke down in 2009. Contact between the US and North Korea aimed at restarting the talks began in July 2011. A meeting last week between US and North Korean officials in Beijing was the third round of talks aimed at exploring how to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.
Shortly after being elected, Trump had accused China of not doing enough to rein in North Korea, and suggested the US could take unilateral action.
But in a wide-ranging interview with Reuters inside the Oval Office, Trump – who met Xi earlier this month – said the Chinese president “certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death”. “He is a very good man and I got to know him very well. “He loves China and he loves the people of China. I know he would like to be able to do something, perhaps it’s possible that he can’t,” he said. Of Kim, he said: “He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age.” But he stressed he was “not giving him credit”, and added: “I hope he’s rational.” “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” said Mr Trump.
The USA is to tighten sanctions on North Korea and step up diplomatic moves aimed at pressuring the country to end its nuclear and missile programs. Trump’s strategy was announced after a special briefing for all 100 US senators. Earlier, the top US commander in the Pacific defended the deployment of an advanced missile defence system in South Korea. “The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” said a joint statement issued by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. “We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies.”The president’s approach aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners,” the statement added.
Democratic Senator Christopher Coons told reporters that military options were discussed at the special presidential briefing for senators. “It was a sobering briefing in which it was clear just how much thought and planning was going into preparing military options if called for – and a diplomatic strategy that strikes me as clear-eyed and well-proportioned to the threat,” he said.
Earlier Admiral Harry Harris, head of US Pacific Command, said the US would be ready “with the best technology” to defeat any missile threat. The deployment of Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in South Korea was aimed, he argued, at bringing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “to his senses, not to his knees”. Adm Harris said he believed that North Korea would try to attack the US as soon as it had the military capabilities.
The latest US statement on North Korea this week squarely put the pressure on China to act, or otherwise suffer on trade with the world’s largest economy. Implicit in the statement is the assumption (correct, I think) that China is willing to tighten the screws more than the halfway steps they have done in the past, and that as a result, new pain will be inflicted on Pyongyang. “We are engaging responsible members of the international community to increase pressure on the DPRK,” the official name for North Korea.
President Donald Trump’s policy towards North Korea is not different from his predecessors. A White House official said an option under consideration was to put North Korea back on the state department’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, imposed sanctions over a year ago following a nuclear test and satellite launch by the North.
President Trump has repeatedly said that a China trade deal with the USA will be better for Beijing if they act on North Korea. China is very much the economic lifeline to North Korea and so if they want to solve the North Korean problem, they will. China is committed to upholding U.N. sanctions on North Korea.
Korean missile milestones
For decades North Korea has been one of the world’s most secretive societies. It is one of the few countries still under nominally communist rule.
North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have exacerbated its rigidly maintained isolation from the rest of the world. The country emerged in 1948 amid the chaos following the end of the Second World War. Its history is dominated by its Great Leader, Kim Il-sung, who shaped political affairs for almost half a century.
Decades of this rigid state-controlled system have led to stagnation and a leadership dependent on the cult of personality. The totalitarian state also stands accused of systematic human rights abuses.
North Korea’s own missile program began with Scuds, with its first batch reportedly coming via Egypt in 1976. By 1984 it was building its own versions called Hwasongs. These missiles have an estimated maximum range of about 1,000km, and carry conventional, chemical and possibly biological warheads. From the Hwasong came the Nodong design – effectively an upscaled Hwasong / Scud with a extended range of 1,300km. In an April 2016 analysis, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said the missiles were a “proven system which can hit all of South Korea and much of Japan”. More capable missiles followed with the development of the Musudan range, which was most recently tested in 2016.
Estimates differ dramatically on its how far it can fly, with Israeli intelligence putting it at 2,500km and the US Missile Defense Agency estimating about 3,200km. Other sources suggest a possible 4,000km. Another development came in August 2016 when North Korea announced it had tested a submarine based “surface-to-surface, medium-to-long-range ballistic missile”, called the Pukguksong. A second was launched from land in February 2017.
China does have economic leverage over North Korea as the rogue state’s largest trading partner. For its part, China is the United States’ largest trading partner — the US imports far more from China than it exports to the country, creating a $347 billion deficit last year. Trump has made narrowing that deficit a major goal of his presidency.
As for trade with the USA, he said, “the Chinese side is ready to work with the U.S. to push forward sustained, steady and sound development of the bilateral relationship on the basis of mutual respect and win-win cooperation.”
With the pressure on China, fears of a militaristic breakout may not be realized. “What this is really clear about is all the talk about war was press talk and not serious,” Leon Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project.
After a missile test this February, China banned coal imports from North Korea in February for the rest of the year. Recent reports also show Beijing may also be closer to cutting oil exports to the rogue state, which would be crippling for North Korea. Coal is one of the country’s key exports – and is reportedly also considering restricting oil shipments if Pyongyang continues to behave belligerently.
China says the deployment of Thaad will destabilize security and there have been protests in South Korea itself, where three people were injured in clashes with police as the system was being delivered to a former golf course.
Intercontinental ballistic missiles are seen as the last word in power projection because they allow a country to wield massive firepower against an opponent on the other side of the planet. The only real reason to spend the money, time and effort building them is to fire nuclear weapons.
During the Cold War, Russia and the United States sought different ways to protect and deliver their missiles, which were hidden in silos, piggybacked on huge trucks or carried by submarines.
All ICBMs are designed along similar lines. They are multi-stage rockets powered by solid or liquid fuel, and carry their weapon payload out of the atmosphere into space. The weapon payload – usually a thermonuclear bomb – then re-enters the atmosphere and detonates either above or directly on top of its target. Some ICBMs have a “multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle”, or Mirv. This has multiple warheads and decoys to allowing it to strike multiple targets and confuse missile defence systems.
In the Cold War period, the range and potential threat of ICBMs were seen as key to the concept of “Mutually Assured Destruction” or MAD. MAD supposedly helped maintain peace because neither side could “win” without suffering incalculable damage.
The UN Security Council is meeting to discuss North Korea on Friday. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said China has told the US it will impose sanctions on North Korea if it conducts further nuclear tests. Tillerson is due to chair a UN Security Council foreign ministers meeting on Friday, where he will lobby for existing sanctions against North Korea to be fully implemented to “increase the pressure on the regime.
Donald Trump has praised China’s President Xi Jinping for his handling of North Korea, calling him “a very good man” who loves his country. The US president said he would like to solve the crisis diplomatically but that it was “difficult” and a “major, major conflict” was possible. He also said it had been “very hard” for Kim Jong-un to take over North Korea at such a young age.
The senators received a highly unusual briefing by the Trump administration on the seriousness of the threat from North Korea and the president’s strategy for dealing with it.
Seeking to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, the USA should be sincere to its claims and be open to negotiations towards the peaceful denuclearization of the Middle East. Russia should also first make the ME region free from nukes as a starting point to denuclearize the world.
North Korea is under US sanctions. North Korean government property in America was frozen and US exports to, or investment in, North Korea was banned. The order also greatly expanded powers to blacklist anyone, including non-Americans, dealing with North Korea.
Of course, the road to denuclearization starts from Israel. If USA thinks Israel should possess nuclear weapons to threaten West Asia and Europe, then every country, including North Korea, also should have nukes in plenty- why not?
Assuming that North Korea has nukes already, world needs not get unnecessarily worried about that because many countries have them- USA has the largest nuclear arsenal and it does not want to dismantle nay of them, except those that are dangerously outdated. .
Maybe for USA illegal nuclear weapons of Israel is matter of prestige. But that the IAEA and UNSC refuse to act on the illegally obtained Israeli nuclear weapons is a serious matter of concern for any nation that seeks genuine denuclearization and disarmament.
Any US military intervention to pre-empt that would be fraught with risk, but Trump has toughened his rhetoric to drive home a message that it’s a credible threat. A key part of his plan is to pressure China to lean more heavily on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. The statement says the USA is open to negotiations towards that end, but many even in Washington doubt the regime could ever accept such terms.
The USA already has extensive sanctions in place on North Korea, including a blanket ban on trade and a blacklist of anyone dealing with North Korea. It is not clear what further sanctions Washington could still impose.
Possibly, USA expects a lot of money and services from North Korea as charges for letting it to have nukes. In fact every country pays huge sum to USA to get their things done. However as super power USA never demands bribes openly. Countries understand from its action to a crisis what USA wants.
If USA and its Western allies are sincere about disarmament and denuclearization they must proceed systematically. First, the powerful UNSC and NATO should try and dismantle the nuclear arsenals Israel possesses illegally. Then they should try to apply the existing laws on denuclearization and disarmament on entire world. Those countries that got nukes early must dismantle them soon after Israel is freed from its nuclear weapons.
It is wrong and absurd that in modern times USA dictates its terms to one setoff countries on the issue and another on other nations.
Obviously, neither Iran nor North Korea would have any objections to dismantle their own arsenals.
The Uyghur militant threat: China cracks down and mulls policy changes
China, responding to United Nations criticism, academic and media reports, and an embarrassing court case in Kazakhstan, has come closer to admitting that it has brutally cracked down on the strategic north-western province of Xinjiang in what it asserts is a bid to prevent the kind of mayhem that has wracked countries like Syria and Libya.
The Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times charged in its Chinese and English editions that the criticism and reports were aimed at stirring trouble and destroying hard-earned stability in Xinjiang, China’s gateway to Central Asia and home to its Turkic Uyghur and ethnic minority Central Asian Muslim communities.
The crackdown, involving introduction of the world’s most intrusive surveillance state and the indefinite internment of large numbers of Muslims in re-education camps, is designed to quell potential Uyghur nationalist and religious sentiment and prevent blowback from militants moving to Central Asia’s borders with China after the Islamic State and other jihadist groups lost most of their territorial base in Iraq and Syria.
Concern that national and religious sentiment and/or militancy could challenge China’s grip on Xinjiang, home to 15 percent of its proven oil reserves, 22 per cent of its gas reserves, and 115 of the 147 raw materials found in the People’s Republic as well as part of its nuclear arsenal, has prompted Beijing to consider a more interventionist policy in the Middle East and Central and South Asia in contradiction to its principle of non-interference in the affairs of others.
The Global Times asserted that the security situation in Xinjiang had been “turned around and terror threats spreading from there to other provinces of China are also being eliminated. Peaceful and stable life has been witnessed again in all of Xinjiang… Xinjiang has been salvaged from the verge of massive turmoil. It has avoided the fate of becoming ‘China’s Syria’ or ‘China’s Libya,’” the paper said.
Five Chinese mining engineers were wounded last week in a suicide attack in the troubled Pakistan province of Balochistan, a key node in the US$ 50 billion plus China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) intended to link the strategic port of Gwadar with Xinjiang and fuel economic development in the Chinese region. The attack was claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) rather than Uyghurs.
The Global Times admitted that the Chinese effort to ensure security had “come at a price that is being shouldered by people of all ethnicities in Xinjiang.”
China has not acknowledged the existence of re-education camps but the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said last week that it had credible reports that one million Uyghurs, were being held in what resembled a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”
The UN assertion of the existence of the camps is corroborated by academic research and media reports based on interviews with former camp inmates and relatives of prisoners, testimony to a US Congressional committee, and recent testimony in a Kazakh court by a former employee in one of the camps.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, US Republican Senator Marco Rubio, the chair of the congressional committee, called for the sanctioning of Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary and Politburo member Chen Quanguo and “all government officials and business entities assisting the mass detentions and surveillance”. He also demanded that Chinese security agencies be added “to a restricted end-user list to ensure that American companies don’t aid Chinese human-rights abuses.”
Stymying the international criticism and demands for action before they gain further momentum is imperative if China wants to ensure that the Muslim world continues to remain silent about what amounts to a Chinese effort, partly through indoctrination in its re-education camps, to encourage the emergence of what it would call an Islam with Chinese characteristics. China is pushing other faiths to adopt a similar approach.
Concern that Uighur militants exiting Syria and Iraq will again target Xinjiang is likely one reason why Chinese officials suggested that despite their adherence to the principle of non-interference in the affairs of others China might join the Syrian army in taking on militants in the northern Syrian province of Idlib.
Syrian forces have bombarded Idlib, a dumping ground for militants evacuated from other parts of the country captured by the Syrian military and the country’s last major rebel stronghold, in advance of an expected offensive.
Speaking to Syrian pro-government daily Al-Watan, China’s ambassador to Syria, Qi Qianjin, said that China was ‘following the situation in Syria, in particular after the victory in southern (Syria), and its military is willing to participate in some way alongside the Syrian army that is fighting the terrorists in Idlib and in any other part of Syria.”
Chinese participation in a campaign in Idlib would be China’s first major engagement in foreign battle in decades.
China has similarly sought to mediate a reduction of tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan in an effort to get them to cooperate in the fight against militants and ensure that Uyghur jihadists are denied the ability to operate on China’s borders. It has also sought to facilitate peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Chinese officials told a recent gathering in Beijing of the Afghan-Pakistan-China Trilateral Counter-Terrorism dialogue that militant cross-border mobility represented a major threat that needed to be countered by an integrated regional approach.
Potentially, there’s a significant economic upside to facilitating regional cooperation in South Asia and military intervention in Syria. Post-conflict, both countries offer enormous reconstruction opportunities.
Said Middle East scholar Randa Slim discussing possible Chinese involvement in the clearing of Idlib: “You have to think about this in terms of the larger negotiations over Chinese assistance to reconstruction. Syria doesn’t have the money, Russia doesn’t have the money. China has a stake in the fighting.” It also has the money.
Sino-American Strategic Rivalry
From a strategy point of view, Clausewitz and Sun Tzu are similar in least in one respect: Sun Tzu’s idea of moving swiftly to overcome resistance is similar to the one endorsed by Clausewitz and practiced by Napoleon.
The modern day example can be traced to the 2003 “shock and awe” campaign by the U.S. in Iraq and the Iraqi reliance on a strategy similar to Russian defense against Napoleon’s attack in his Russian Campaign of 1812. Napoleon’s invasion of Russia was the beginning of the end of his ambition. He won many battles but lost the war.
And America is suffering from the same fate as the struggle for a new Iraqi political identity is not going to go the American way. The same can be said about Afghanistan.
This is precisely why discussions on war must be assessed from a geopolitical point of view as Clausewitz has noted that “war is an extension of politics”. And the reverse is also true, one may add.
A quick tour of modern history reveals the true winners and losers of wars, by comparing a country’s power before and after a war. The United Kingdom and Germany were both losers of the two World Wars. And the difference of losses between them is a matter of degree.
But the U.K. suffered greater and irreversible losses than Germany. The British ceded its number one geopolitical leadership position in the world to the United States. But Germany has been able to regain its position as Europe’s great economic and political power, while the prospects of the U.K. taking back the world leadership position from the U.S. are next to none.
America has been a geopolitical winner overall since the two World Wars. But its power has been in relative decline. It has failed to advance its power after the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and most recently Syria. It has failed so far to advance the momentum created by the Arab Spring as it has since become the Arab Winter, or to make much headway in Latin America, in Ukraine, and in Africa.
America’s key failures in the past decade are failures in being able to offer tangible economic benefits to target countries while expanding its military involvements. The country can win military battles because of its overwhelming fire power but has not been successful in its after-war “nation building” efforts.
Despite China’s numerous shortcomings, many developing countries quietly wish they could become a mini-China economically. They want to live better with more consumption but they probably want to do it by being able to build up their country’s infrastructure and an industrial base.
America’s recent announcement that it will invest $113 million in technology, energy and infrastructure initiatives in the Indo-Pacific as part of a new strategy to deepen ties with the region has received jaw-dropping reception – sarcastically speaking.
As an example, a survey of North American light rail projects shows that costs of most LRT systems range from $15 million to over $100 million per mile. So how far $113 million or even $1.13 billion can go even if one is to factor in some discounts if projects are implemented in lower cost Indo-Pacific countries? Remember, $113 million is for countries as in plural!
This pales in comparison to China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) that ranges between $1 trillion and $8 trillion. BRI is not without its problems and critics. Concerns have been raised about increases in some participating countries’ level of national debt as a result of massive infrastructure building. But because of the scale of the initiative, even if it could only succeed at the lowest end of the range, would offer some real and substantial benefits to countries that can benefit from it.
While freedom and democracy are ideals that have universal support in the abstract – the key words here are “in the abstract” – successful nation-building efforts are realized in the nitty-gritty of people’s everyday economic well-being. This is particularly true among developing countries.
Cheap Chinese smart phones have enabled Africans to get market information to transact with one another more beneficially, to acquire news and information, to lower transaction costs through mobile payments. Inexpensive Chinese motor bikes have become life-saving vehicles for rural populations carrying goods to markets as well as the sick to clinics or hospitals many miles away that they previously could not do.
While the U.S. is no doubt keen on promoting democracy, it is the Chinese that provide affordable smart phones to the masses that allow the spread of information.
While some of the best and the brightest, the elites, the upper middle class in developing countries may desire to have an opportunity to earn an Ivey League degree, to emigrate to the U.S. for better opportunities, to acquire an American passport as an insurance policy, it’s the Chinese that are doing the grunt work of building and training local personnel to conduct trains, to train electrical power linemen to install and repair of overhead or underground power lines as well as to maintain and repair of other electrical and hydro-electrical subsystems and components.
Regardless of how one’s view of China’s strategic intents in its international involvements, the strategies between the U.S. and China cannot be more different. China builds and America destroys.
But many countries especially in the Indo-Pacific region are taking advantage of the rivalry between these two powers to extract the best deals for themselves and you can’t blame them. Economically they want to cooperate with China but militarily they want to get a free ride from the U.S. and the U.S. does not mind that as long as it falls within America’s China Containment strategy.
And time will tell which strategy will work better – economic cooperation or military encirclement?
The 70th Anniversary of the Koreas
Seventy years ago, the Korean nation was divided into two separate states. On August 15, 1948, the Republic of Korea was founded in the south of the Korean Peninsula, and on September 9, 1948 the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was founded in the north.
A Longstanding Confrontation
The Korean War of 1950–1953, which saw the United States fighting on the side of the South under the UN flag, was the bloodiest and most destructive conflict since World War II. De jure, the two Korean states are still at war. This is because the Korean Armistice Agreement signed on July 27, 1953 to stop the war is nothing but an agreement between the commanders-in-chief of the two armies to suspend military hostilities. Two powerful military contingents with cutting-edge weapons and equipment are still at the ready on both sides of the 38th parallel that divides North and South Korea. And these contingents are not just made up of Korean troops. Under the Mutual Defense Treaty Between the United States and the Republic of Korea, U.S. contingent of 28,500 troops is deployed in South Korea. When Pyongyang started to develop nuclear weapons and missiles to prevent the United States from intervening in the inter-Korean military conflict, this further exacerbated the situation.
“The Asian Tiger” and a “Rogue State”
Today, South Korea is referred to as the “Asian Tiger.” It is a highly developed and prosperous state: it is the world’s second-largest shipbuilder; the third-largest manufacturer of semi-conductors and displays; the fifth-largest automobile manufacturer; and the six-largest producer of steel. South Korea invests 4 per cent of its GDP into research, more than any other OECD member, and it has the fourth-largest number of patent applications for inventions, behind the United States, Japan and China. Seoul has its own space programme and has plans to send its first probe to the Moon’s orbit by 2020 and another to its surface by 2025.
North Korea certainly lags behind South Korea in its economic development; however, statements about the country’s cultural and technological backwardness are largely the work of western media. And we are not only talking about the fact that Pyongyang would not have been able to develop its own nuclear programme that the world is so concerned about if it did not have a high level of scientific and industrial development. No one can deny that the new blocks of high-rise buildings in Pyongyang are practically indistinguishable from those in Seoul, that Pyongyang’s metro is a year older than Seoul’s, and that North Korea launched its artificial satellite before South Korea did.
Since North Korea has its own nuclear programme, the United States has declared it a “rogue state” and has not only imposed its own sanctions on the country, but has also managed to have very harsh sanctions imposed on it by the UN Security Council. It is curious, however, that the timing of the sanctions against North Korea (after the country carried out its first nuclear test) coincided with the North Korean economy emerging from the very severe economic crisis of 1995–2000, after it had overcome famine and started to show signs of economic growth. Even more paradoxically, economic growth in North Korea picked up pace significantly in 2012–2013, when the sanctions were tightened. This was primarily due to the fact that when Kim Jong-un came to power, he launched active, albeit quiet, market reforms in the country.
From Confrontation to Dialogue
The tension around Korea has been one of the greatest threats to international security in recent years. Today, the global community is focused on forcing Pyongyang to abolish its nuclear programme. However, this alone will not eliminate the threat of a new Korean war involving the United States, South Korea’s military ally. Shutting down North Korea’s nuclear programme requires, first, a reconciliation between the two Koreas and, second, solid guarantees to Pyongyang that the United States will not take aggressive measures.
2018 was marked by important positive events in Korean affairs. On April 27, President of South Korea Moon Jae-in met with the leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un in Panmunjom. Naturally, this summit between the heads of two Koreas (only the third ever) did not resolve all the problems that had accumulated in the bilateral relations over the decades of confrontation. However, it did open the way to move on to specific talks on trade and economic cooperation and a military and political détente.
We also saw the first ever U.S.–North Korea dialogue on the North Korean nuclear programme, with a summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un being held in Singapore on June 12, 2018. Even though the summit’s declaration contains nothing more than generic phrases, one thing is without doubt: no nuclear or conventional war will take place in Korea in the near future. The handshake between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un is a real contribution to the cause of peace in Korea and throughout the world.
A Complex Knot of Problems
The North Korean leadership is clearly interested in a détente on the Korean Peninsula. While the Byungjin line proclaimed by Kim Jong-un several years ago entailed building a powerful nuclear potential and creating a prosperous economy, in April 2018 the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea said that success in building the nuclear potential allowed North Korea to focus all efforts on building a socialist economy.
The proof of Pyongyang’s words is contained in its actions. Not a single nuclear test has been carried out for almost a year now, and missile tests have not been held for over six months. North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site has been shut down.
Pyongyang appears to have a precise step-by-step programme of possible bargaining with both Seoul and Washington on mutual security commitments. Kim Jong-un, however, is clearly dragging his feet in developing the positive work started at the summits with Moon and Trump. The reason appears to be that he is not confident that both his opponents will stick to the deals. Back in the day, the conservative President of South Korea Lee Myung-bak had no qualms about abolishing his predecessor’s “sunshine policy” in the country’s relations with North Korea, while George W. Bush did not hesitate to get rid of Bill Clinton’s “North Korea Appeasement Policy.” Is there any guarantee that in a couple of years, peace-loving Moon will not be replaced with some North Korea hater, or that Trump, Kim’s counterpart in Singapore, will not be impeached?
The nuclear disarmament of North Korea and the provision of security guarantees to Pyongyang is too complicated a knot of problems to be cut in a single stoke, and by the sole hands of the United States. The solution requires multilateral international efforts, and this cannot be done without the involvement of China and Russia, two countries that have historical and geographical ties with Korea. It would appear that both the Koreas are counting on the participation of Russia and China. This much is clear from the fact that Kim Jong-un has visited China twice over the past two months, and President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea Kim Yong-nam and President of South Korea Moon Jae-in have both paid official visits to Moscow.
The optimal way would be to go back to the six-party talks on the Korean nuclear programme: the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan. The talks should be structured as step-by-step negotiations using the principle of “action in exchange for action.” It would be wise at the initial stage to propose that North Korea’s nuclear programme be separated from its missile programme. North Korea’s nuclear status is set forth in the country’s Constitution, and this subject currently appears non-negotiable for Pyongyang. At the same time, a freeze on the missile programme and guarantees of non-proliferation of missile and nuclear technologies can be negotiated. Given that Pyongyang has essentially introduced a moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests, the issue of lifting some sanctions from North Korea may be raised at the UN Security Council to stimulate Pyongyang to further roll back on its nuclear and missile programme. For instance, to get North Korea to stop developing ICBMs, freeze the production of nuclear materials and open its nuclear facilities for international inspections.
Several purely political steps would also be useful. For instance, it would be good to correct the entirely unnatural situation in which the United Nations, as a party to the Korean War (in that war, Pyongyang’s enemy fought under the UN flag), is still officially at war with North Korea, one of its members. For that purpose, the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly could adopt a UN Security Council declaration stating that the Korean War is in the past and that the UN Security Council is putting an end to that chapter and, therefore, the UN Command is no longer needed in Korea.
To further promote the inter-Korean détente, it would probably be useful for North Korea and South Korea to conclude an agreement between commanders-in-chief of the two countries on preventing dangerous military activities; such an agreement could serve as a landmark on the road to concluding a Peace Treaty to replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement. This would mean that any incidents that may arise due to dangerous military activities would be promptly stopped and settled through peaceful means without resorting to the threat or use of force. The document could be based on provisions of the 2015 Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Korean Affairs and Russia
The best way to diffuse tensions between neighbouring states and establish relations based on mutual trust is to run joint, long-term and mutually profitable economic or scientific and technological projects in. Russia could play a prominent part in such work on the Korean Peninsula.
The two Korean states are immediate neighbours of Russia, and Russia is interested in having good and mutually beneficial relations with both. And there is a good basis for this to happen. Historically, Russia has never had any disputes with either of the Koreas. Russians have never set foot in Korea as an aggressor. On the contrary, the country has always welcomed Korean people into its territory: 2014 marked the 150th anniversary of Korean resettlement in Russia. In 1945, it was the Soviet Army that liberated Korea from the colonial power.
There are no disputes between Russia and either of the Koreas today either. The leadership of South Korea, for instance, stresses its interest in taking its relations with Russia to the level of “strategic partnership.” It is noteworthy that, despite the persistent pressure of the Unites States, South Korea did not join the sanctions against Russia imposed after the events in Ukraine.
During his three meetings with Vladimir Putin over the past year, Moon Jae-in has unfailingly stressed collaboration with Moscow on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, establishing peace there and developing Eurasia. Economically, South Korea that has virtually no mineral or other resources and is highly interested in exploring the natural wealth of Siberia and the Far East. At the same time, Russia is a promising market for South Korea’s industrial products.
South Korea is also ready to collaborate with Russia in those areas where Russia has globally competitive technologies. This much is evident from the participation of Roscosmos in the construction of South Korea’s Naro Space Center, the flight of a South Korean astronaut with two Russian cosmonauts in a Russian spacecraft, the launch of the Russia–South Korea Naro-1 (KSLV-1) launch vehicle, and the fact that South Korea imports Russian uranium for its nuclear power plants to meet over a third of its needs. Bilateral humanitarian ties are also being developed. South Korea is the only country in Northeast Asia that has a visa-free travel agreement with Russia.
During President Moon Jae-in’s state visit to Moscow in June 2018, the parties agreed to expand bilateral cooperation in the areas of civil aircraft building, automobile manufacturing, shipbuilding and the construction and modernization of shipyards in Russia. The parties intend to expand cooperation in space research, the exploration of the Northern Sea Route and the joint development of oil and gas fields. Concluding a Free Trade Agreement would be a landmark moment in the development of trade and economic cooperation.
As regards North Korea, Russia’s relations with the country were on a downturn in the 1990s. Vladimir Putin’s visit to Pyongyang in 2000, the signing of the Treaty on Friendship, Good-Neighbourly Relations and Cooperation in February 2000, and settling the issue of North Korea’s debt to Russia in 2012 all paved the way for the restoration a full-fledged partnership between Russia and North Korea. Such a development was intended to give a powerful impetus to trade and economic relations both in the Russia–North Korea bilateral format, and in a trilateral format with the participation of South Korea, thus contributing to building bridges in inter-Korean cooperation.
During the Russia–South Korea summit held in Moscow this past June, the two parties expressed interest in trilateral projects between Russia, South Korea and North Korea, such as: linking the Trans-Korean Main Line to the Trans-Siberian Railway; building a pipeline between Russia and North and South Korea; and connecting the power grids of the three countries. The problem is, however, that implementing these trilateral projects is currently hampered by sanctions imposed on Pyongyang due to its nuclear programme, as is the development of bilateral trade and economic cooperation between Russia and North Korea.
Further dialogue on the matter is expected at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September 2018, to which Vladimir Putin has invited the leaders of both Korean states.
The two Korean states are celebrating their 70 th anniversaries while gradually retreating from confrontation algorithms formed by the Cold War. It is in the interests of everyone that a reconciliation of the two Koreas is achieved and a solution to the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula is developed.
North and South Korea should become full-fledged members of the comprehensive security system in Northeast Asia.
First published in our partner RIAC
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