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The structure of the North Korean political and military issue

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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North Korea’s military strength is the strength of its nuclear potential. As the North Korean Foreign Minister stated at the ASEAN Forum in early August 2017, the United States must be “blamed” for wanting to bring “the nuclear war into the Korean peninsula”. He also reaffirmed that North Korea would never discuss the issue of its missile and nuclear arsenal at the negotiating table with the United States and  its allies.

At the time China said that a critical point had been reached, but it could also be the beginning of new and more effective negotiations between North Korea, the United States, China and the Russian Federation.

It is therefore obvious that the two missiles launched by North Korea on July 4 and 28 last are certainly capable of reaching the US territory, but they were fired at such an angle as to avoid the impact on the ground.

It is further evident that North Korea launches missiles towards the United States because it wants to prevent it from permanently mobilizing for a regime change in North Korea.

On the other hand, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson maintains that -before sitting at the negotiating table – North Korea must not only put an end to the nuclear military tests, but even begin a genuine, stable and definitive denuclearization process.

Incidentally, although officially keeping NATO as a “nuclear alliance”, the US obsession with Europe’s denuclearization did not bring luck to the countries like Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey which  had been heavily denuclearized by the United States between the end of the Second World War and the establishment of the Atlantic Alliance.

The Atlantic Alliance which, according to Lord Ismay, the first Secretary General of NATO, had “to keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down”.

It is not possible to figure out what would have happened if Italy had had a small, albeit credible nuclear military system, but certainly the Mediterranean situation would be better today.

Turkey’s nuclear threat to the USSR would have changed and limited its  Middle East policy. The nuclearized West Germany would have not experienced the penetration of the DDR intelligence services that later tormented it. The Netherlands would have had a role to play in the North Sea and Belgium would have had more stable and less factional governments.

Italy experienced all this, but that is another story.

Just to quote Henri Bergson, the philosopher who developed the concept of vital impulse (élan vital), the nuclear power is “the force that is not used.”

A force which, however, we must show to have and be able to use – not on the ground, because it is of no use, but in the decisive phases of foreign policy.

A country without nuclear power, however, is a country without a foreign policy and strategy.

Nevertheless, reverting to the ASEAN Forum held last July, all the Foreign Ministers present condemned the “missile tests and urged a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea”.

At this juncture, without imposing an either-or deal, we could say that North Korea cannot accept to resume the Six Party Talks, which began in 2003 and ended in December 2008, without clarifying a single and central point: maintaining a nuclear armament share for North Korea, but fully verifiable by IAEA.

And also without further ascertaining that the new IAEA agreement applies to both Koreas at the same time, so as to later foster North Korea’s economic integration into the regional system – hence including Japan, Vietnam (an old friend of North Korea) and obviously South Korea and  India.

The economic and humanitarian instruments of the Six Party Talks were significant, also on the part of the United States: one million tons of heavy oil or oil equivalent – the expenses of which had to be shared among the six parties; support for North Korea’s energy spending and supplies; the US funding for the denuclearization costs; assistance to IAEA; 12.5 million tons of food – from 1995 to 2003 – with a view to alleviating the very harsh conditions of the North Korean population.

Hence support to North Korea is expensive, but it is better to help it now rather than triggering a military spiral that can only be solved by a limited and, ultimately, nuclear war, which is in no one’s interest.

Not to mention the damage that – hopefully in a very distant and even impossible future – the strategic wound between the United States, Russia and China could cause in Southeast Asia, as well as the block – also for the EU, the Asian region, India and the Gulf countries – of all the routes from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea.

It would be one of the deepest global destabilizations occurred in the modern era, even worse than the two World Wars which Asia has always seen as regional conflicts.    

Hence limiting the North Korean strategic pressure area and concurrently reducing the perception of strategic encirclement and impoverishment currently felt not only by the North Korean leaders, but also by the local population.

North Korea’s nuclear system, however, is needed: 1) to ensure the survival of the regime; 2) to support its military prestige and its weight, also at economic level; 3) to achieve an asymmetrical strategic superiority over South Korea.

South Korea has more and better trained armed forces, but it has a nuclear power system of which only the United States has the access keys.

Therefore it would be rational to shift from the rhetoric of North Korea’s total denuclearization – which is impossible to achieve and is strategically dangerous even for the United States – to a more rational “classic” negotiation for the strategic control of nuclear weapons, which we deem would be acceptable also for North Korea.

Since 2013 Kim Jong Un’s policy line has been to link economic development to nuclear projects, thus focusing all the North Korean Armed Forces’ efforts on the nuclear arsenal.

As all well-informed ruling classes do, the North Korean regime interprets  its own choices on the basis of the recent history of the world’s leading strategic actors. Kim Jong Un knows all too well what happened to Saddam Hussein and Muammar El Gaddafi, although the Iraqi dictator had accepted the US “advice” and weapons to begin his ten-year war against the Iranian ayatollahs.

Furthermore, the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine is regarded by North Korea as the final break with the 1994 OSCE Agreement of Budapest, which mainly regarded Belarus’, Ukraine’s and Kazakhstan’s accession to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The agreement reached in the Hungarian capital city was guaranteed by the United States, Russia and Great Britain, while China and France had provided less precise assurances in separate documents.

Hence, against this general background, what does it mean and what is the point of sending an Italian general and MP to negotiate with North Korea?

What could Italy say to the leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, considering that Italy is a country blindly repeating the US and EU strategic mistakes?

Surely it could say something if it had some autonomous residual voice in the matter.

For example could it inform of the fact that – in a new context of resumption of the Six Party Talks for a policy designed to control North Korea’s nuclear potential – Italy would take the initiative (in the legal sense of the term) and the lead for North Korean economic development, jointly  with China, where Italy is operating well?

Do you believe that two – albeit titled – quisque de populo can convince both the United States and Kim Jong Un? Or that the funny TV comedian Razzi can be enough?

Italy could also ensure that an agreement with Russia, China and the United States is reached for the progressive reduction of North Korean nuclear potential – not to be destroyed, but to be used together with investments for a new Korean industrialization.

Do we really want to entrust Federica Mogherini or General Rossi, the Defence Junior Minister of former Renzi’s government, with the task of saying so?

Everything can be done, only to later maintain that North Korea’s missiles can reach the EU “ahead of time” – as French Defence Minister Florence Parly said. Furthermore the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, has announced a new, unspecified “EU programme of sanctions against the Democratic People’s  Republic of Korea” – a programme which, indeed, has been existing since 2006, in line with and implementing the sanctions decided by the United Nations.

Let us simply look at data and statistics. In 2016 trade between the EU and Korea was worth 27 million euros.

The current share of European investment is very low.

The restrictive measures – namely those already taken between 2006 and 2016, without Mogherini obviously knowing anything about them – regard the sale of technologies somehow related to the nuclear system, as well as any kind of computer software, dual use techniques, luxury goods and financial assistance.

As always happens, sanctions favour two equally dangerous actions for those who impose them: the development of internal substitution economies – often with lower production costs than those already recorded on imported goods – and intensified trade with friendly countries, which are really glad to gain the new market shares abandoned by those who moralize at people’s expense.

In fact trade between North Korea and China increased by ten times between 2001 and 2015.

In April 2016, however, China temporarily stopped coal imports from North Korea, with the only exception of the amounts connected with the “people’s wellbeing”.

Formal prostration – namely a kowtow – to the sanctions decided by the UN and also approved by China.

China, however, supplies North Korea with much of its food and with 90% of its total trade.

Moreover, in the first half of 2017, bilateral trade between China and North Korea has been 37.4% higher than during the same period of 2016.

Since September 2015 both countries have opened a fast cargo and container line for Korean coal exports, while a high-speed rail line is already operational between the border towns of Dandong and Shenyan.

Dandong is the town through which 70% of China-North Korea’s trade transits.

Obviously, for China, the primary goal in the Korean peninsula is political and strategic stability.

China deems that if there were any clash between South Korea, the United States and North Korea, no one could be declared the winner and, above all, China would see a huge number of migrants coming from the North Korean border, which would destabilize its Southern region.

Who would take advantage of it?

Moreover, with its missile programme, North Korea wants to play for time in order to solve the issue of its geoeconomic equilibria. It must still dispel some reservations on the resumption of the Six Party Talks, with specific reference to South Korea’s denuclearization – as this is not the strategic equation between the two Koreas – but a genuine Peace Treaty between North Korea and the United States would be really welcome.

This is what Kim Jong Un really wants.

This would put an end to the armistice and would create the conditions for a new negotiation between the United States, North Korea, Russia and China.

South Korea would have a Protection and Military and Civilian Aid Pact on the part of the United States, also signed by the other four participants in the Six Party Talks.

After signing the future Treaty between the United States and North Korea, a further South Korean protection treaty, including nuclear protection, should remain in place. In a new geopolitical context it could become an autonomous Region of a peninsular State that would include some Northern Russian and Chinese areas.

Hence weaken, control and again weaken. A careful regional geopolitics knows how to operate on Korean tensions.

The mistakes made in the previous negotiations with North Korea are now evident: the 1994 Agreed Framework between the United States and North Korea was based on the fact that the Americans were asking North Korea to stop its nuclear programme – a request which, however, was met.

In 2002 it was discovered that North Korea has an uranium-enrichment programme.

At that juncture, Bob Gallucci – a still unparalleled expert of relations between North Korea and the United States – admitted that the US real aim was to stop the plutonium operations rather than the enriched uranium ones.

Two different things, two different strategic lines.

That was the solution.

Instead of hoping for an impossible collapse of the North Korean regime, it was better to let it have a share of operations – at the time even accepted by IAEA.

Obviously, after 1989, the collapse of Communist regimes in the world  and of their reference parties in the “capitalist” West created an understandable  tension in North Korea.

The regime had supported Yasser Arafat and North Vietnam. It had a very special relationship – also at nuclear technological level – with East Germany and actively supported Somalia and other “Socialist” African States. It loved the Soviet Union that helped it with nuclear power, which in fact began there in the 1950s. It also had good and unavoidable relations with China which, however, could not materially help North Korea at least until the 1970s.

Ceausescu was one of the family in Pyongyang, as many leaders of the “Mediterranean Eurocommunism” of the time.

Nothing is as it may seem.

North Korea’s Communism and Kim Il Sung’s, in particular, was a comprehensive and global platform for effective negotiations between the East and the West.

It is worth recalling that the Six Party Talks started in 2003 and ended on September 19, 2005.

The final text made reference to the procedures for North Korea’s denuclearization. North Korea clearly stated its desire to formally stabilize its relations with the United States and the other Western countries. Mention was also made of the creation of a peace organization for the whole Korean peninsula, which should be the first issue for a smart and brilliant Italian mission to North Korea. In 2005 North Korea accepted and implemented the Six Parties’ agreement.

Hence forget about the rhetoric of “human rights” – more or less accurately identified, which happens seldom – and the further vilain” rhetoric –  as Shakespeare’ vilain who embodies all evils and hence must be destroyed.

The issue lies in thinking about the strategy and carry out the rational operations it entails.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs "La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa", he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d'Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: "A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of "Honorable" of the Académie des Sciences de l'Institut de France

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East Asia

Twists and Turns in US -China Trade War

Gen. Shashi Asthana

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s stopover at Beijing on 08 October may not have been a pleasant experience, more so in the backdrop of accusation of US Vice President Pence about  China attempting to interfere in U.S. elections. The agenda of North Korean denuclearisation, where US and China were broadly agreeing earlier, seems to have taken a back seat, and improvement of relations doesn’t seem to be realistic in near future. The ongoing trade war continues as both sides dig their heels despite being the biggest trading partners of each other, because it is also linked with global dominance, strategic and military posturing, diplomatic and information offensive.

 China Braving Threat to its Vulnerabilities

China is putting a brave front despite being badly hit at some of its most vulnerable spots in the tit-for-tat trade war with both sides spiralling the slapping of tariffs on a wide range of each others’ trade items. Taiwan, which is another sensitivity of Beijing is witnessing visit of US officials after Taiwan Travel Act was signed by President Trump, with a promise to arm it further with latest weaponry. US continued military posturing in South China Sea, along with the appearance of UK warship ignoring Chinese repeated warning is another concern.   A recent injection of over $110 billion by China into its banks and hardly any financial benefits coming out of BRI partners incapable to repay anything is tightening its financial freedom for global dominance. Some of its BRI partners want to get out of the ‘Debt Trap’ by refusing/reducing Chinese investments is adversely affecting Chinese dream project (BRI), after five years of its announcement like Philippines.

Not a Smooth Sail for US

US on the other hand cannot be celebrating either, with China digging it heals and refusing to give up either in trade war or South China Sea. On North Korean front, the policy of good optics continues with Kim managing to get a lot of goodies from South Korea (presumably at their cost), during the last summit of North and South Korea. Kim in fact has been an outright winner, managing to get another Summit with President Trump, which helps him in convincing his countrymen of his sound leadership, as well as boosting his status internationally. US sanctions on paper continue, but after the chest thumping at Singapore Summit, his friends like China automatically relaxed the sanctions on North Korea, without any worthwhile denuclearisation/reduction in his nuclear/missile arsenal. US realises that knocking out China financially is the key to its global dominance; hence is unlikely to soften up to China. US also faces another challenge of keeping its allies like Japan and South Korea satisfied while negotiating with North Korea and asking ASEAN to make choices of partners, besides continuing with CAATSA hurting some of its strategic partners who could be helpful in balancing China.

It will take some time to see that whoever has greater resilience to withstand the economic stand-off and appetite to take setbacks will have an upper edge, which seems to be US at this point of time. As per IMF assessment, China’s GDP size will be 1.6 per cent lower in 2019 than it otherwise would be, if the US slaps tariffs on all Chinese imports.

How is India affected?

The Indian economy has survived some global slowdowns earlier and should be able to sail through the present one. The bigger problem is the sanction under CAATSA in dealing with Russia for urgently needed military hardware like S-400 and Iran for cheaper crude oil being paid in rupee terms, for which India has adequate refineries. The US option of buying shale oil does not suit India as it does not have adequate refineries and will have to purchase finished product in dollar terms. The port of Chabahar is also crucial for India for connectivity to Afghanistan and CAR. The silver lining is that US being our strategic partner will like to have well equipped Indian Forces to balance China and Indian connectivity to Afghanistan, in case Pakistan does not serve their strategic interest. On both counts I am hopeful that US will find a way out not to hurt its strategic partner.

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East Asia

The talks held in September 2018 between Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-In

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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In less than one year three meetings have been held between the North Korean Leader and the South Korean President, Moon Jae-In.

In the initial meeting the two leaders had decided to put an end to the state of war between their two countries. They had also reaffirmed the goal of denuclearization of the entire peninsula, with the consequent destruction of the nuclear potential of South Korea and of the United States, in particular. They also decided to create an inter-Korean Liason Office between the two sides of the Demilitarized Zone and to bring together the families dispersed between the two Koreas. Finally, the idea was to create new communication infrastructure – railway lines, in particular – a project by which Russia has always set great store.

Indeed, Russia is betting many of its cards on a reunification between the two Koreas, capable of enabling it to keep its excellent relations with South Korea – which are essential for the economy – and to also support North Korea, which is Russia’s unavoidable strategic goal.

Now the two Koreas are dealing on their own, without the US brokerage and intermediation with respect to South Korea, although President Donald J. Trump has recently stated that President Moon Jae-In is his official “delegate” for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

The United States is scarcely interested in the internationalization of the North Korean economy. It only wants denuclearization, while Kim Jong-Un wants denuclearization to develop his country’s economy and maintain its geopolitical and national autonomy.

A serious problem – both in talks and in the final or working documents – is also to define an effective mechanism to check denuclearization.

Indeed, between September 17 and 19, 2018, the signing of the Joint Declaration of Pyongyang has not fully clarified the mechanism of checks on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Kim Jong-Un’s idea is to organise these checks with a series of “experts” appointed by the friendly powers, while the South Korean idea is to accept the maximum possible denuclearization to start the long process of reunification.

The two respective Defence Ministers, however -namely Song Young Moo for South Korea and Rho Kwang Chul for North Korea – have just signed a separate document from the rest of agreements.

In that text confidence-building measures between the parties are put first, with North Korea’s acceptance of dismantling a launch pad and a site for checking jet engines, with the presence of yet unspecified, but friendly international experts. From IAEA? We have some doubts, in this case.

Subsequently North Korea could also dismantle the Nongbyon site, if the United States does the same in South Korea.

It should also be recalled that most North Korean missiles are built to be launched by mobile vehicles, not from fixed bases.

In short, North Korea wants the United States to remove the nuclear umbrella protecting South Korea and Japan while, in the recent talks with North Korea, the United States thinks of a bilateral treaty regarding only the Korean peninsula and, at most, some classes of North Korean missiles.

In the US mind, the planned reduction of North Korean long-range missiles could be even equivalent to a nuclear and conventional decrease of its troops stationed in Guam.

On the basis of a new future agreement, both Koreas (and God only knows how and to what extent the North Korean conventional military potential would be useful for a South Korea unified with North Korea) would also define maritime and land buffer zones, as well as a no-fly zone over the old border, with a view to avoiding clashes or accidental air battles.

This is already partially clear, but much work shall be done to define all the details.

There would also be plans to cover or reduce artillery batteries along the coast.

Obviously, should these talks run aground, the only concrete political result would be the progressive divergence between South Korea and the United States, precisely on the problem of the peninsula’s denuclearization.

Furthermore, over and above the aforementioned sites, North Korea will dismantle the site of Dongchang-ri, in addition to the site of Yongbyon, while Kim Jong-Un is also very interested in the building of fast railway links between South and North Korea.

The two Koreas will get the industrial site of Kaesong back in shape and the old tourist project concerning Mount Kumgang back in track, besides planning new joint economic and tourist areas.

The inter-Korean agreement regards also collaboration for medical and environmental issues, as well as for the protection from epidemics.

In other words, both Koreas think of an economy of compensation between them, which could also develop at a later stage and become a need for the development of both countries.

An economic-political symbiosis that could get the United States out of play and later reinstate Russia, which is increasingly interested in the South Korean economy, as well as finally favour China, which has no intention of leaving the Korean peninsula to the hegemony of North Korea alone.

At the end of the Treaty, there is also the project of a joint participation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and a joint candidature for the 2032 Olympics.

A few days ago, North Korea also expressed its intention to join the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank – a sign that the internationalization of the North Korean economy is now a certainty.

Hence it is a de facto peace treaty between the two Koreas.

If North Korea continues along this line, it is very likely that South Korea will gain a tactical advantage over the sea while, if the relations between South Korea and the United States remain as they currently are, there should be no significant changes in bilateral relations between the USA and South Korea.

However, what is the current state of relations between the United States and North Korea?

In fact, while the inter-Korean relations are all in the framework of effective confidence-building measures, the clear purpose of the fourth round of talks between the two Korean leaders is to preserve a strong US engagement in the whole negotiation process.

Kim Jong-Un wants to engage the United States for his global economic projection and he certainly does not want to remain tied to a regional economy, albeit open and “reformed” according to China’s rules.

For North Korea, the procedure is simple: at first, bilateral talks with the US support for South Korea; later peace between the two Koreas and finally what is only interesting for the USA, namely denuclearization.

It is not even unlikely that the United States does not accept this timing, but it is also unlikely that it realizes the strategic and economic aspects of this timing.

North Korea wants a fundamental agreement with South Korea because: a) it is an unavoidable asset for the modernization of its economy; b) it is the fundamental strategic factor to have the support of both Russia and China, who want to avoid North Korea’s hegemony over the peninsula, but also want to keep it as a rampart for US forces in South Korea; c) it is only through South Korea that North Korea will eventually be in a position to be connected to the Chinese maritime economic and strategic system and reach up to the Mediterranean.

In fact, if the relations between the United States and North Korea improve further, the site of Yongbyon could be dismantled definitively.

Hence currently Kim Jong-Un wants to thoroughly test the US goodwill, rather than South Korea’s goodwill, in developing a long or very long-term peace policy.

In Kim Jong-Un’s mind, there is in fact a key factor: the US behaviour in the phase in which Muammar Gaddafi accepted its proposal to dismantle his nuclear project.

Kim Jong-Un thinks that not even the story of Saddam Hussein is a guarantee for the US long-term reliability and for the stability of its leaders’ word of honour.

This is the real important factor in the strategy of the North Korean Leader.

Moreover, the US immediate reactions to the last meeting between the two Korean leaders have been fast and positive, both by President Trump and by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

And North Korea’s autonomous foreign policy has been seen also recently, with the 70th Anniversary military parade.

North Korea’s military parade and its important national celebration, was attended by Li Zhansu, ranking third in the internal power hierarchy of the Communist Party of China (CPC); by Valentina Matviyenko, President of the Russian Federal Council, the third elected office in the Russian Federation; by a very significant figure, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President of Mauritania, and finally by Hilal al Hilal, deputy-General Secretary of the Syrian Baath Party.

With peace, North Korea will significantly develop its already multiple economic and political relations with Africa, which will be essential for its new economic development.

At the military parade staged on September 9, there were also authorities from Iran, South Africa and Singapore – which is the never forgotten model of the Chinese “Four Modernizations” -as well as other 60 delegations from “friendly” countries.

At economic level, in August, shortly before the big military parade of the 70th Anniversary, there was the International Fair of Razon, which hosted as many as 114 companies of which 52 North Korean ones.

The North Korean product lines mainly included pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, textiles, electronics and cosmetics.

However, there were many Chinese large companies selling their products in North Korea despite the UN sanctions.

As from September 17, there was also the Autumn Fair which brought together 320 commercial companies from Russia, New Zealand, Australia and China.

This is in fact the new paradigm of North Korea’s foreign policy.

The dollar has also grown in the exchanges with the North Korean currency, both on the official and on the “parallel” markets.

If all goes well at geopolitical level, the North Korean project will be to further improve its light industry, in addition to the diversification and quantity of products, with a view to trying its own autonomous way on the market world, as was the way of the nuclear system.

It should be recalled that this was also Kim Il-Sung’s project.

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East Asia

China’s Imprint underneath the Pyongyang Joint Declaration

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On September 18, the leaders of two Koreas met each other in Pyongyang, the capital of the DPRK. The world media focused on the meeting during which the two sides issued the “Pyongyang Joint Declaration”. If we see the Panmunjom Declaration serving as the cornerstone of the dialogue between two Korea, it is necessary to say that this joint declaration took a substantial step to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula that is vital to the regional peace and beyond.

Literally speaking, the Pyongyang joint declaration highlighted the key issues as follows. First, both sides are determined to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Second, they will work together to improve their relations with a view to the existing state of war, as the defense chiefs from the DPRK and ROK earlier signed a comprehensive agreement aiming to reduce tensions on the peninsula. Third, they will promote the peace talk process of the Korean peninsula. Given that Kim pledged to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”, it would be seen as a political declaration that would mark a starting point for peace negotiations. If all goes well, a peace treaty would be sealed and then comes normalization of DPRK-US relations after it achieves complete denuclearization.

As a close neighbor to the Korean Peninsula, China always supports the DPRK and ROK as well in improving their relations through dialogue and consultation and promoting reconciliation and cooperation. This is the consistent and persistent position of Beijing, which has been playing a responsible role in politically resolving the Korean Peninsula issue and achieving the long-standing peace of the region.

In effect, prior to the leaders of two Korea met each other this week in Pyongyang, they have closely contacted their respective allies or strategic partners. Among them is China, dealing with both sides – Pyongyang and Seoul – in a unique way. It is true that China is the largest trading partner of the ROK while it is equally the only legal ally of the DPRK as well as its largest ideological partner now. If we review the bilateral relations between China and North Korea since last March, Kim Jr. has paid three significant, though unofficial, visits to President Xi of China. For example, during his March 25-28 visit, both sides vowed to continue their traditional solidarity in terms of their shared ideologies and common strategic interests. Xi especially proposed to strengthen the close ties between the two ruling parties. As he said to Kim, “party-to-party and state-to-state relations are the common treasure to both sides. And safeguarding, consolidating and developing China – DPRK relations are unswerving guidelines for China’s foreign policy and security strategy.

During his second meeting with Xi in Dalian summer resort, Kim vowed to terminate all the nuclear tests and to follow denuclearization if the United States took corresponding measures with good wishes. Then following his meeting with Trump in Singapore on June 12, Kim came to Beijing again on 19 to meet his Chinese counterpart. Xi confirmed China’s “3-no change” policy towards the DPRK, that is, political solidarity between the two parties remains unchanged, the friendship between the two peoples remains unchanged, and China’s support of a socialist Korea remains unchanged. Essentially, they serve as the foundation of the strategic consensus between Beijing and Pyongyang. In return, Kim reiterated his permanent shutdown of all nuclear tests and facilities if the US would respond sincerely and responsibly.

Given all the analysis above, it is understandable to conclude that China’s long-standing adherence to the goal of denuclearization of the Peninsula through dialogue and consultation is fully reflected in the Pyongyang Declaration. Meanwhile, China’s stance remains evident since it claims that the Korean issue must be resolved eventually by the Korean people rather than any external power. Therefore, peace not force is the only acceptable way. Also, as China and Russia have repeated that no coercive change of the regime by outside power is tolerated, North Korea can be confident and comfortable to proceed the permanent shutdown of the missile engine test site with international experts observing; and then a complete denuclearization is not too far in the future.

Here is necessary to argue that China has never claimed to play an exclusive role in the Korean Peninsula. Instead of that, China has always encouraged the DPRK to talk to the United States and other relevant parties. Since Kim has agreed to make a trip to Seoul for further talks and to meet the US high-ranking officials in Pyongyang soon, the summit between Kim and Moon marks a leap forward toward peace.

Yet, as the lessons in history show, it is better to approach realistically the Korean issue simply because it has involved too complicated concerns and memories and the overlapped interests. Therefore, we should be ready to accept trial and challenges lying ahead. China has insisted on diplomacy which means that all parties concerned should be brought to the negotiating table under the mandate of the UN Security Council.

Now, Beijing has navigated the course of denuclearization proactively to protect two sides’ common core security stakes when Kim reportedly promised to give up his nuclear program if the United States and South Korea respond to his proposal with good will. Due to this reason, China will do what it can to help ensure “no change of regime by force and denuclearization at the same time in the Korean Peninsula”. This is China’s influence or Beijing’s imprint on the Korean denuclearization issue and the regional peace.

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