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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

Why does the Dragon do what it does

Moaaz Awan

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The recent stand-off between China and India has been the headlines around the world, especially since the stand-off went ugly with 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number (probably less than 20) Chinese soldiers losing their lives in a vicious hand to hand combat. Since then, nationalistic sentiments in India are running high with immense public pressure to account for the Chinese for what happened in Galwan Valley. In order to understand the motives behind the recent clashes, one has to go back to 1962 or even before that.

This is not the first time that tensions along the LAC (Line of Actual Control) have flared up and definitely this is not the end of such events. Strategically, what was true in 1962, is true today. The real bone of contention is still Aksai Chin. Aksai Chin is the Dragon’s hanging sword on Delhi, which can be unleashed anytime keeping India continuously in a state of passive defensive. As long as China adheres to its strategy on Aksai Chin, it will always have the strategic initiative, and India’s “great power ambition” will continue to lay in the abyss of the Indian Ocean.

Aksai Chin indeed was a part of the State of Kashmir but since Kashmir already was being fought over between India and Pakistan and the region being far from both India and Pakistan was inaccessible to both claimants. Beijing saw an opportunity and with tacit approval from Pakistan, went ahead to control this “Sand Sea of China” which is the literal translation of Aksai Chin in Turkic.

Aksai Chin is strategically very important for China. It is the only possible land route that connects China’s Xinjiang Region to Tibet. China’s G219 Highway and the New Tibet Railway Line both pass through Aksai Chin. If there was not to be an Aksai Chin, the Chinese had to cross the hard terrain of the Kunlun Mountains to connect China’s two big landmasses. In 1962 when China took the initiative to cross the LAC, Beijing had several things on its mind. Firstly, it had to secure Aksai China so that a land link between Xinjiang and Tibet can be established. Secondly, China knew that controlling the heights over India is going to give it a long term strategic advantage and through it, it could always keep the initiative in its hands, keeping Delhi in a defensive position for an unprecedented time in the future. Thirdly, it wanted to support Pakistan which was having its own problems in the Kashmir sector. In case of any future Indo-Pak conflict, China would be in a better position to intervene. Lastly, and most important of all, Beijing wanted to ensure no future disturbances along the LAC. The main objective of the 1962 War was made very clear by Chairman Mao at the Xiangshan meeting: “At least 30 years of peace must be guaranteed.”

One may wonder that what does thirty years of peace do. What merited the risk of crossing over the LAC by the Chinese? The answer is rather simple: Integration of Tibet! Tibet was having internal problems and especially after the Dalai Lama fled Tibet it was getting harder for Beijing to keep it under control, but that couldn’t be possible unless and otherwise New Delhi would be completely knocked out of the Tibetan game and this is exactly what the 1962 War did.

Some analysts believe that instead of focusing on Aksai Chin which is a rugged piece of land, China should’ve gone for the Arunachal Pradesh, which the Chinese call “Southern Tibet”. The area is also much richer in natural resources than Aksai Chin. The point made then by Beijing was that Arunachal Pradesh was a more difficult terrain to be defended plus the aim was to stabilize the whole of Tibet, instead of just Southern Tibet. Another interesting reason why Beijing kept mum about Southern Tibet was that it was the “Granary of Tibet”, the absence of which meant that Tibet had to rely on Beijing for its basic necessities. Another well-calculated move by Beijing to reign in Tibet.

All along the 1962 War, Beijing was clear of its objectives. It was not expansionism that drove the war but rather strategic interests. The war was initiated by China, and China itself took the initiative to end it. It was clear to the Chinese planners that any War with India had to be swift, decisive and must set the tone for future engagements. That is why after the PLA took over control over large swathes of land across the LAC and the “McMahon Line”, then quickly retreated back to the “McMahon Line”. Since the battleground is usually too cold for battle, the PLA had only a two-month window to launch an offensive

Prior to the war, at the Beijing Xiangshan meeting in which it was decided to fight the 1962 War, Zhou Enlai specifically instructed that “logistics must be done well, and we must never increase the number of casualties due to logistical factors like in the Korean War.”

Learning on the lessons of 1962, India unilaterally decided not to build any infrastructure in the region surrounding the LAC, fearing that the same infrastructure might be used by the Chinese to come into the Indian mainland. Since now New Delhi is ascertaining its regional and global power, it is constructing new roads and infrastructure along the LAC and China is clearly not happy with India changing the status quo. Previously, the status quo maintained gave Beijing a strategic advantage. One border issue had pinned India for decades, wasting a lot of India’s national power, and has allowed China to develop with peace of mind for decades.

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Escalation of conflict between two Koreas: Why now and what could it lead to?

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Observers worldwide signal a rapid deterioration of relations between two Koreas which began on June 9th, after North Korea’s authorities discontinued contacts with South Korea over the anti-Pyongyang leaflets circulated by North Korean defectors. While Seoul has announced readiness to take measures, the other party chose to ignore the announcement.

Pyongyang has blocked all communication lines with Seoul (except those between special services). North Korea has also blown up the building of the inter-Korean communication office in Kaesong, which was opened in 2018 for promoting cooperation between North Korea and South Korea. This is a precedent which sets one thinking: why is all this happening now and what could it result in?

Throughout the past few decades Pyongyang has repeatedly resorted to the “slam the door” tactic according to which it first broke contracts and then resumed them. There was a time when the participants in inter-Korean talks threw cookies at one another during a coffee break in a manifestation of mutual resentment. But no one blew up buildings.

Significantly, the measures in question have been reported by Kim Jong-un’s younger sister Kim Yo-jong, who described South Korea as a «foe». Deputy head of the propaganda department of the Central Committee of the Korean Labor Party, this pretty-looking lady with good manners were originally appointed to represent the North Korean regime with a “human face”. Now, she is playing the part of a “bad cop”.

So, why is it all happening now? The year 2020 began with radical changes about American-North Korean denuclearization talks, which ran into a deadlock. North Korea repeatedly voiced discontent over the US not lifting sanctions against Pyongyang and not calling off military exercises with South Korea despite the fact that North Korea has stopped nuclear tests, frozen intercontinental ballistic missile launches and closed nuclear testing sites. In response, Pyongyang chose to raise negotiation stakes by saying ‘no’ to talks on the lifting of some UN-imposed sanctions in exchange for major nuclear facilities of North Korea.

Apparently, North Korea considers it possible to repeat the same tactic in its relations with the South, which have been stalled, largely over the coronavirus pandemic.  Despite Pyongyang’s expectations, North-South relations cannot enter the specific cooperation phase, first of all, over the  position of Washington, which has been doing everything to thwart it.

When a chess game enters a deadlock, the angry party, like in the Ilf and Petrov classic, is tempted to overturn the chessboard, or worse, to crush it on the head of the other party. This is the logic that the North Korean party could be driven by at the moment; such a behavior seems quite sensible, because it has yielded good results many times before. The question is why torpedo the inter-Korean dialogue now, under President Moon Jae-in, who is widely known for his commitment to the  North-South dialogue and has done a lot to promote it (and must have been getting ready to do more, thereby earning a credit for himself in history before he steps down from the post of president in 2022)?

It is not a secret that this dialogue has limits which are imposed by American-South Korean alliance. Since the North has always been against them, the current escalation could well be part of an attempt to “blow up” the existing system (or, at least, rock it out of balance). But this kind of move is hardly sensible and hardly feasible.

What will the current escalation which the North has been demonstrating so openly (“seven people hold me, or I break loose and crush everything”), lead to?  What sounds alarm is Pyongyang’s intention to deploy troops in areas which have been deemed as demilitarized since 1953, when North and South Koreas signed an armistice agreement. After that the two sides saw a number of intermittent setbacks but they never touched the border zone in the 38th parallel. Seoul and Pyongyang never attempted to reconsider the zone’s demilitarized status.  A violation of this “taboo” is fraught with danger – it could cause unintended military incidents on the demarcation line, particularly considering the fact that the 38th parallel has the world’s biggest concentration of military power and weapons.

Finally, what are external players to do? The UN secretary-general has urged the United States and South Korea to take joint efforts to normalize inter-Korean relations. After that the State Department issued a corresponding statement which ran into a rebuke on the part of North Korea. The day before the Trump administration extended sanctions against North Korea for another year, and the circle has been closed.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry and Russian State Duma coordinator for cooperation with North Korea Kazbek Taisaev have expressed hope that peace will be preserved. But this is not enough. Russian and Chinese diplomats have been acting in line with a consolidated position of China and Russia on the situation around the Korean Peninsula, which was enshrined in the Joint Statement of the two countries’ foreign ministers of July 4, 2017. Action for action, a step-by-step lifting of sanctions depending on progress at the talks is what Russia and China propose for a settlement. This principle, however, proceeds from the fact that North Korea is interested in such progress, not vice versa. For this reason, our countries’ foreign ministries may have to streamline their strategy with a view to make it easier to implement and boost its effectiveness.

From our partner International Affairs

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Will There Be an End to the Korean War?

Gleb Ivashentsov

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The Korean War began 70 years ago, on June 25, 1950. This was not just a standoff between neighboring states. The Korean War, in fact, began as a civil war between the two Korean camps (the North, that sought to build the future of Korea according to the Soviet model, and the South, committed to American attitudes). In the context of the Cold War, it immediately developed into a large-scale military conflict. Great powers were directly or indirectly involved. This includes the USA, Great Britain, USSR, PRC, as well as the UN, which sent an international military contingent to Korea under its own flag to help the South.

Military Confrontation on the 38th Parallel

The inter-Korean confrontation continues to this day. Today, on both sides of the 38th parallel — the latitude line that roughly demarcates the two Korean states — military fortification is piled up, and thousands of troops with modern weapons and military equipment target each other. Moreover, in accordance with the Mutual Defence Treaty between the U.S. and South Korea, the latter is hosting a group of U.S. troops of 28.5 thousand people, subordinate to the ROK/U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC).

And if Seoul does need the U.S. military presence in Korea in order to protect South Korean economic prosperity from the hypothetical encroachment of Pyongyang, then for Washington, it is only an element of the global system for ensuring “American leadership.” The Korean Peninsula is the only continental element of the U.S. military presence in East Asia. In addition, South Korea, as an ally of the United States, significantly strengthens American military power in the Pacific, doing so to a much greater extent than Japan, still fettered by Article 9 of its Constitution.

Nuclear Issue

In the 1990s, the tangle of security problems on the Korean peninsula was supplemented by the North Korea nuclear crisis. North Korea, in violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, announced the development of a nuclear missile program. Pyongyang remembered the calls of the American General Douglas MacArthur, who led the United Nations Command in the Korean War, to use the atomic bomb, and believed that the DPRK’s own nuclear weapons could prevent a potential strike from the United States in the event of a new inter-Korean war.

The United States confronted the North Korean nuclear missile program with a sanctions war and aggressive military rhetoric. This included direct threats of President Trump in 2017 to physically destroy the DPRK should it decide not to give up nuclear missile development. However, common sense prevailed. Mutual accusations gave way to dialog. Three inter-Korean and two North Korea-the U.S. summits took place in 2018–2019.

Inter-Korean Dialog

Inter-Korean dialog was facilitated by two circumstances. On the one hand, having created long-range nuclear missile weapons, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un decided that the main strategic goal to ensure the security of the DPRK from the United States had been achieved, and that the nuclear-missile race could be suspended by putting more funds into economic needs. On the other, it was the behavior of South Korea that promoted a thaw in the relations. And this is not only due to the fact that from the very beginning, the current President of the Republic of Korea, Moon Jae-in, went to the polls under the slogans of restoring dialog with Pyongyang. The aggressive rhetoric of Donald Trump in 2017 regarding the DPRK also played its role. For the first time in several decades, the world was faced with the real threat of a new war on the Korean Peninsula at the initiative of the United States. South Korea would be the main victim of it, suffering a powerful blow from the North. Therefore, if Washington’s victory in the war would be the liquidation of the North Korean state in its current form, then for Seoul, the only option for victory would be to prevent the war.

There were a lot of expectations from inter-Korean summits. But these expectations were only met, perhaps, by the fact that there will be no nuclear or other war in Korea in the near future. The declarations adopted in Panmunjom and Pyongyang by Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in set a number of tasks to promote cooperation between the two Korean states. However, for the most part, these documents looked more like statements of intent. Many political and legal obstacles stood in the way of fulfilling these intentions.

Therefore, the inter-Korean dialog that pompously started in 2018 began to stall by the end of 2019. At the beginning of June of the current year, it even reached a dead end. Under the pretext that the South Korean authorities did not prevent various public organizations from sending balloons with leaflets wording the attacks on the North Korean regime, Pyongyang blocked all communication channels with Seoul. In addition to this, Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, who now oversees relations with the South and, in general, has practically become the second most influential figure in the DPRK power structure, promised Seoul to destroy the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong in the near future (which was done — Ed. note.), the next step to be made by the military of the North.

The point was not, of course, in sending the balloons with leaflets to North Korea, especially since many of them had not reached the DPRK. The reasons go deeper. On overcoming the coronavirus pandemic, the DPRK economy is in dire need of economic support, and Pyongyang makes it clear that they are dissatisfied with Seoul’s lack of any steps aimed at restoring inter-Korean economic cooperation. This was stipulated by the agreements reached at the summits of Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in. This is primarily about the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) and the Kumgangsan tourist region. The KIC, located in the DPRK near the border with the Republic of Korea, was the largest and most successful inter-Korean project. It housed the production of more than a hundred South Korean small and medium-sized enterprises, which employed about 50 thousand North Korean workers. By 2015, through the work of the Kaesong complex, inter-Korean trade turnover reached USD 3 billion, which made South Korea the second most important trading partner of the DPRK after China. The Kumgangsan tourist region was open to South Korean citizens for ten years, from 1998 to 2008. During this time, almost 2 million South Koreans could visit it, giving the DPRK government an additional source of income.

Pyongyang seems to be counting on the large victory of the ruling Democratic Party in the parliamentary elections in South Korea in April this year, which might create new prerequisites for restarting the inter-Korean peace process. This is all the more since immediately after the elections, the Office of President Moon Jae-in stated that normalization of relations with Pyongyang remained a priority for the country’s leadership and the resumption of negotiations between the North and the South might occur in May-June.

However, the initiator of rapprochement with the North, President Moon Jae-in, found himself in a critical situation. The most important asset of his party in the elections was not an inter-Korean settlement program, but the successful actions of the South Korean authorities in the fight against the pandemic. Now that the unrest around the pandemic has more or less subsided, the economic problems in the country, aggravated by the pandemic and corruption scandals involving people close to Moon, are again coming to the fore in the public consciousness of the South Koreans. So today, the President of the Republic of Korea is clearly not up to talking with Pyongyang.

The pressure of the big ally certainly plays its role. Before the results of the U.S. presidential election, Washington will not only be unable to take any action on the Korean vector, but will also disallow Seoul to take the initiative.

Do all of Korea’s Neighbors Want the Reunification?

In the current alignment of forces near the Far Eastern borders of Russia, the establishment of Korea as a single independent neutral and nuclear-free state would be in its interest. The question, however, is that at this stage, neither North nor South Korea is ready for reunification. The partners of the two Korean states are not ready for this either.

Seoul is concerned that reunification will come at a very high cost, pulling it out of competition at the regional and global levels for a long time. Pyongyang, in turn, does not intend to surrender to the South. They examined the experience of Germany, where the capitalist West brought the socialist East to heel, making former GDR citizens “second-class” and subjecting members of the former East German power elite to all kinds of persecution, including imprisonment. The new young generation of the North Korean elite is actively blending in with the emerging North Korean business under Kim Jong-un. We have already seen something similar in Russia. Both of these classes — the current military party elite and the North Korean nouveau riche — have a vital common interest in preserving a separate North Korean statehood. The unification of Korea under the leadership of Seoul is equally dangerous for both, because in this case, the elite will lose power, and local business will simply be crushed by the South Korean chaebol monopolies.

As for the United States, it is not really in its interest to have Korea reunited rather than having status quo on the Korean peninsula, maintaining tensions there. This is the most convenient way to keep and, if necessary, strengthen the U.S. military-political presence in Northeast Asia.

China is considering the alignment of forces on the Korean Peninsula primarily through the prism of its confrontation with the United States. Beijing will support the reunification of Korea only if it is sure that a united Korea will be pro-Chinese. There is no certainty about this: Korea, united under Seoul conditions, will, at best for China, become a powerful independent state with strong ties to the United States, and at worst, like Japan, the outpost of Washington’s deterrence of China in the region.

The Japanese, in turn, say that the main question for them is who will get the North Korean nuclear weapons. Tokyo will support the reunification of Korea, only being sure that these weapons are destroyed or withdrawn. In fact, the Japanese are simply afraid of the emergence of a united Korea as a powerful competitor in the regional and world arena, similar to the way England and France tried to delay the unification of Germany in the late 1980s.

Therefore, speaking about the reunification of Korea in the current conditions is at least premature. It should be a matter of inter-Korean reconciliation, building bridges between the two Korean states.

Trump and Pyongyang

In 2018 Donald Trump’s transition from the threat of a military attack on Pyongyang to a dialog with Kim Jong-un was largely forced. Both the insistence of South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the issue of inter-Korean detente and the general international attitude against the risk of a nuclear war against North Korea played a role. Special attention should be given to, firstly, the “road map” for settling the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula put forward on July 4, 2017, by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Russia and China. And, secondly, to the unwillingness of the U.S. allies to engage in new American adventures in Korea, which was clearly shown in January 2018 at Vancouver meeting of the foreign ministers of those states whose troops fought in the Korean War of 1950-1953 on the side of the South as part of the so-called UN forces in Korea.

In dialog with Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un voiced the new relations between the DPRK and the U.S. as the main condition for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. These relations should be based on mutual trust and free from mutual demonization. It is clear that this is not an easy task for Pyongyang and Washington. But there are examples of how similar challenges were solved in due time in China-the U.S. and Vietnam-the U.S. relations. The future relations of the DPRK and the U.S. could reach the level of today’s communication between Vietnam and the U.S., when they still remember the war, but the memory of the past does not prevent them from working together in the present.

Pyongyang could stop the development of ICBMs, freeze the production of nuclear materials, and open its nuclear facilities for international inspections. And Washington, in return, would officially recognize the DPRK, establish diplomatic relations with it, exchange diplomatic missions, limit military activities at its borders, reduce and ultimately lift sanctions, and provide economic and energy assistance to the North.

The problem, however, is that at least for the coming year, any progress in the U.S.-North Korea dialog is ruled out. Trump is concerned about preparations for the presidential election, the extremely unfavorable situation in the country due to racial unrest, and not about Korea. Both now and in case of winning the elected position, there will be more important issues — China, Europe, Russia, the Middle East. Korea will not be among the U.S. foreign policy priorities even if Biden wins the election (all for the same reasons).

Inter-Korean Reconciliation Matter is in the Hands of Koreans Themselves

The main result of the inter-Korean summits was Seoul being reconciled with the existence of the DPRK and adopting the policy of peaceful coexistence with respect to it. The urgent need for the Republic of Korea today is to recognize the status of the DPRK as a sovereign state, the rule of law and constitutionality of its leadership, and shift the relations between the two Koreas into a bilateral format.

The UN is called upon to play its role in this situation. It has been dealing with the “Korean issue” from the moment it arose in the late 1940s. Yet after the approval of two resolutions on this issue at once during the 30th session of the General Assembly in November 1975 (one initiated by the USA and the other by the USSR (both remained unfulfilled)), it basically removed the issue of a political settlement in Korea from the agenda.

First of all, it is worth changing a completely unnatural situation when, formally it is not the Republic of Korea, that is in the military confrontation with the DPRK, but the UN. To assist South Korea during the Korean War, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution No. 84 of July 7, 1950, the United Nations Forces in Korea were created — the multinational armed forces of 16 states led by the United States. Since these forces participated in the Korean War under the UN flag, and the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement was signed on the behalf of these forces opposing the Korean People’s Army and Chinese People’s Volunteers (and in fact on behalf of the UN), the latter is still formally at war with the DPRK, that since 1991 is a full member of the UN.

It is time to adopt the UN Security Council declaration and to declare that the Korean War was a page of the past, that the UN Security Council turns this page and, accordingly, there is no need for the UN Command in Korea.

As for the American troops in South Korea, their presence should be regulated exclusively by interstate agreements between the Republic of Korea and the United States. In this case, it would be worthwhile to decide on the issue of Operational Command (OPCON) by the ROK/US Combined Forces Command. Now, under bilateral agreements, in peacetime on the peninsula, South Korea commands both its own troops and the U.S. military contingent. However, with the outbreak of war, the command automatically transfers to the United States, which means, in fact, that the President of the Republic of Korea, as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the country’s armed forces, becomes subordinate to the Lieutenant General of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Peace Treaty

The question about the need to replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement in Korea with a peace treaty repeatedly arose in connection with the inter-Korean summits. At the same time, there is a wide range of opinions expressed as to which states should be parties to this treaty.

The Armistice Agreement of 1953 was not an interstate document. It was an agreement between the commanders-in-chief of the warring parties on the suspension of hostilities, the withdrawal of troops and establishing a demilitarized border between them. Neither the Republic of Korea, nor the United States, nor China in state capacity were involved in the armistice agreement. Moreover, the United States and China did not participate in the Korean War as states.

The peace treaty on the Korean Peninsula should be the treaty of two sovereign independent states — the DPRK and the Republic of Korea. There are certain preconditions for this. A joint communique of the Republic of Korea and North Korea was issued on July 4, 1972, calling for an independent and peaceful reunification of the divided country, without depending on foreign powers and without foreign interference, on the basis of “great national unity.” In December 1991, the heads of government of the North and South for the first time formally recognized the equal existence of two Korean states by signing the Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression and Exchanges and Cooperation. Five inter-Korean summits took place from 2000 to 2018, joint declarations being adopted at each of them — a program for the development of bilateral relations aimed at a gradual shift from confrontation to reconciliation and phased rapprochement. None of these documents provided for the participation of any third states in inter-Korean communication. It was and should be about the interaction of the two Koreas exclusively in a bilateral format.

It is noteworthy that during the 2018 Pyongyang Summit the Agreement on the Implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain was signed by the Ministers of Defense of the DPRK and the Republic of Korea. This is a fundamentally new and, most importantly, a practical step towards reducing military tension. Confidence-building measures between the military are being strengthened, communication channels are opening up, the parties are going to take all measures to prevent any clashes and conflicts with the use of military force in any territory. This is all the more important, firstly, since the ROK in its own capacity did not sign the Armistice Agreement in Korea in 1953. Secondly, the leaders of the two states announced that they would pursue a joint bid to host the 2032 Olympic Games. That is, the ROK recognized that it did not expect, as in the previous years, the regime to fall in the DPRK and that the North and South would exist separately even in 15 years.

The Korean War that started 70 years ago, has not ended yet. The Korean crisis today is one of the main threats to international security. This crisis has two components: the division of the Korean nation over decades into two separate states and the DPRK nuclear missile program.

These two components of the Korean crisis are interconnected, but their impact on each other is unequal. Pyongyang’s refusal from nuclear development alone will not end the confrontation between North and South. At the same time, normalization of inter-Korean relations is a prerequisite for ending the Korean War matters and solving the denuclearization issue of the Korean Peninsula.

From our partner RIAC

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