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The news coming from the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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The positive signs currently coming from the Korean Peninsula, and especially from North Korea, are definitely encouraging.

In fact, the 23rd Winter Olympics, scheduled for February 9-25, will take place in the Pyeongchiang County, which is located in South Korea, or in what is officially called Republic of Korea.

Since the designation of South Korea in June 2017, the International Olympic Committee has always said explicitly it wanted North Korea to participate officially in the Winter Olympics. Hence it has obviously welcomed – although with some surprise  – North Korea’s announcement of the “probable” sending of a small team of ice skaters.

Indeed, North Korea’s luge athletes and skiers had not technically qualified for the Olympics.

From the beginning, South Korea had proposed a joint team for all the specialties in South Korea’s Olympics. It had also suggested to North Korea a joint women’s team for ice hockey, as well as the sharing of costs for the participation of both countries in the 23rd Winter Olympics of Peyongchiang- and indeed the latter has been an open issue since December 2014.

At that time North Korea had refused only for organizational time reasons, without ever raising matters of principle – and this is by no means of secondary importance.

For obvious reasons of national dignity, North Korea has explicitly refused to share the participation and organization costs.

It is worth recalling, however, that, from the very beginning, North Korea had strongly supported only the candidacy of South Korea to host the 23rd Winter Olympics of 2018.

Hence the Winter Olympics will see the participation of the North Korean athletes Ryom-Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik, who had both qualified for the 2018 Olympics during the competitions held in Oberstdorf, Germany, in September 2017.

Later some problems arose in the relations between the North Korean Olympic Committee and the Lausanne’s International Olympic Committee, the highest body responsible for world sport.

However, it was the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, who personally announced the possibility of sending North Korea’s athletes to the 23rdWinter Olympics in South Korea – an explicit permission given on a special and highly symbolic occasion, namely the speech delivered by the Supreme Leader for the New Year.

The primary theme of the North Korean Supreme Leader is “national pride”, which counts very much for both countries – the most tragic relic of the old Cold War, a silly conflict that both Koreas want to overcome, albeit in a different way.

From this viewpoint I believe that Mao Zedong’s theory  of the Cold War as a “paper tiger” holds true for both Koreas.

However, the way of overcoming it is often not too different.

Hence the meetings between the two Koreas to tackle the issue of North Korea’s participation in the 23rd Winter Olympicsare scheduled for January 9.

Both Koreas are fully aware – even in the smallest  political, symbolic and ceremonial details – of what is really at stake in this negotiation, which is only apparently a  sporting negotiation.

What is at stake is an agreement between the two Koreas before solving, once and for all with Japan, Russia, the United States and China, the issue of North Korea’s full return – with equal dignity -ontothe international scene and hence onto the world market.

If all goes well, in the coming years we can probably talk about a strategic and military sharing between South and North Korea – the establishment of a “nuclear and chemical-bacteriological potential” throughout the Korean peninsula, whose keys will also be held by Japan, Russia and probably the United States, if it does not make further mistakes.

As usual, the EU will have a wait-and-see attitude,  believing to have a role to play in the negotiations while only practicing nursemaid diplomacy – thus ridiculously getting worked up for no purpose and pretending to have powers it has not – by probably providing “humanitarian aid” to the parties(aid possibly not even required by them).

We had already said so on other occasions in the past when no one was even barely thinking about that.

We had referred above all to the joint exercises between Russian and Chinese forces carried out last November in the Sea of ​​Okhotsk.

For both China and Russia that sea is the optimal area to launch attacks on US bases in the Pacific.

The message was very clear: to quickly and strategically regionalize the North-South Korean issue; to strengthen Russia’s and China’s ties with both of them; to make the United States leave all hope regarding the disagreements between Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping that can never be a useful wedge for the United States.

Hence a further message to the United States making it clear that any further increase in the US military presence in South Korea would not absolutely be accepted either by Russia or by the People’s Republic of China.

And not as protectors of North Korea, but as powers directly bordering on a nuclearized area.

We have already said so, but it is worth repeating it: China does not accept in any way a US military hegemony  cancelling North Korea’s nuclear and conventional potential – the only possible rampart between China and  South Korea, namely a US staunch ally.

But, in economic terms, also China’s ally.

The US military balance in the region is well known: 35,000 North American soldiers and officers in South Korea; 40,000 in Japan; nearly 4,000 in Guam, a small island 2,100 kilometers away from Pyongyang, with a surface of ​​only 544 square kilometers.

Not to mention the five US bases in the Philippines, as well as the four US warships based in Singapore, in addition to the overflight and docking permits granted by Thailand to the North American forces.

It is also worth recalling the US significant strategic positioning in the Hawaiian islands, with further 400,000 soldiers, sailors and officers and as many as 200 military ships available, with over 1,000 thousand warplanes of various sizes and functions stationed in the atoll that saw the successful surprise attack by the Japanese Admiral Togo.

There is also the US naval base in Kadena, on the island of Okinawa, as well as some stealth bases, also located in the Japanese archipelago.

Hence, it should be honestly said to our US friends that the fact that North Korea feels to be strategically closed and severely threatened is not a paranoia of North Korea’s ruling class – it is an incontrovertible fact.

To do what? “To bring democracy” to North Korea? Most of the mistrust with which North Korea looks to US statements regards, in fact, the unpredictable, self-destructive and basically improper behavior the United States had with Saddam’s Iraq at first and with Gaddafi’s Libya later.

North Korea does not want “Korean” springs, characterized by forked tongues, leaving only rubble and splitting the old national units – well tried and tested by history – for a crazy project of continuous war.

Furthermore China did not even accept that the United States naively puts pressures on itso as to diminish the significance and scope of the North Korean nuclear missile program.

As happens in the whole Chinese and Eastern sapiental tradition, China certainly does not want to be “second” to the United States.

And,  despite recent coldness, it does not even want to appear hostile or distant from North Korea, an ancient “brother country” that Xi Jinping’s leadership will never leave in Western hands.

Conversely – if and when the global equilibria allow it -China may want a rational balanced reduction of North Korea’s nuclear umbrella.

This is meant to reduce a real danger of unwanted or casual attack and to show benevolence – when needed – vis-à-vis South Korea and North America.

Hence the North Korean nuclear system is a bargaining chip that China will use at its poker table, but never against the old North Korean “comrades” that, indeed, could obtain good economic advantages from this balanced reduction of the nuclear missile and bacteriological-chemical potential, without particular reductions in the value of their threat  south-eastwards.

China accounts and will account in the future for over 90% of North Korea’s trade with the other countries but – as excellent readers of Marx’s works -the Chinese never behave like “common materialists” in the analysis of international relations.

Ironically for ideologies, which have never died, currently  only the big business liberals think in terms which were typical of the Communist vulgate.

Moreover there is a clear message coming from the latest  joint Russian-Chinese sea operations.

The clear strategic message that we hope the United States will understand is that the first US attack parade will be almost entirely covered by the Russian-Chinese threat or reaction, which will probably oppose and cancel it before its reaching North Korean waters. Conversely, Russia and China will leave North Korea’s response on Guam free and, in all likelihood, on other US bases in the Pacific – a response which will be fully developed by North Korea alone.

Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State of Donald J. Trump, who has always been in favor of negotiations with North Korea, knows all too well to what extent it is important for the United States not to trigger an uncontrollable and useless chain reaction in Southeast Asia-a region that has never brought luck to the United States.

Why? To set fire – without any result for the United States, if not ashes – to the whole ​​Central Asian region and get to war on the Russian-Chinese land borders?

May God protect them.

Later Russia and China will protect North Koreadiplomatically, at the level of international organizations, thus avoiding the worst of the new sanctions.

Or, even worse, the excessive reactions of some US late restless aides, of those who – as has already happened in the EU – want to repeat the Cold War at the new borders of the Russian Federation.

They emasculate themselves on their own, at least as far as the energy market is concerned and hence -almost without realizing it – they will find themselves recreating a very costly dependence only on the United States, which will certainly make no concessions or discounts for the EU powerless naivety.

Hence currently  the real problem is how to get out of this second phase of Cold War – and the key is to be found once again in the Korean peninsula.

If all those who will be called upon to deal with North Korea heal the Cold War wound where it was created (in fact, the Berlin Wall came later), namely at the 38th parallel, many things will change and not only in Southeast Asia.

South Korea will never want to become a nuclear ossuary to cover the North Korean subsequent attacks on the US nuclear parade and its military positions and installations in the region.

Furthermore, Russia and China will never accept a US military operation before or after the Panmunjom line, which is still technically a “ceasefire”.

Nevertheless both Russia and China will quickly accept the proposal to reduce the relevance of the North Korean nuclear apparatus, if there are rational and verifiable exchanges.

However, in this new triangulation, even North Korea must reap its benefits, which could be ensured by a new treaty that should make North Korea enter the worldmarket without hesitations, dissimulations and pretenses and without post-factumpunishments. Why?

Obviously there should also be a treaty for mutual recognition between the United States and North Korea, in addition to the restoration of a long, but credible, sequence of joint actions between South and North Korea.

At the end of the diplomatic negotiation, the United States should be in a position to  accept a North Korean share of total defense to be defined.

While, at the same time, North Korea shall agree on a wide secondary protection area for its own defense apparatus, namely a new Panmunjom line.

As already recently noted, this would mean strong gradual  integration with the Russian and Chinese economies, just now that the great ride of the new Silk Road is beginning westwards.

However, I have recently become very optimistic about the whole North Korean issue.

It has happened when I learned that the negotiation, which will start with the symbolic and hence highly political Olympic issue, will be led for North Korea by Ri Su-Yol, also known as RiChol.

A high-profile institutional leader who enjoys Kim Jong-Un’s full trust – a diplomat with great culture and experience about Western and Eastern issues.

He speaks excellent French, but his professional experiences have led him to learn also the German language very well.

Obviously his English is perfect.

He served as Minister for Foreign Affairs from April 2014 until May 2016 – and this is the first aspect to consider.

Ri is a refined weaver and negotiator, as happened in the diplomatic tradition of the countries born from the continuity and break with Marxism, which was represented by the creation of the Third Leninist International.

He is a tireless man, without the inflexibility that characterized many Eastern diplomats, at least those I met when Italy still had a foreign policy – which is no longer the case.

A “revolution against Capital“, against the Third International just to use the title of an old and perhaps still famous article by Antonio Gramsci on the “New Order”.

In this respect, we note that by Capital we only mean the title of Karl Marx’s fundamental work, not one of the means of production that Marxism has always considered – with some exaggeration, but also with some good intuitions – a means of production very different from the others.

However, these are just digressions typical of an  economist.

Ri was also Vice-President of the Committee for Investment and Joint Ventures, as well as Vice-President of the Communications Committee of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

He also had another key post in the North Korean’s  political system, which is based on “collaborative competition” among leaders, created especially in the institutions for training and selecting the North Korean ruling class –  an “alternate” candidate of the Party’s Central Committee, a role never to be forgotten in a Third International system.

He also heldanother important post, namelyVice-Director of the Organization and Guidance Department, the control axis with which Kim Jong Un, but also his predecessors, spoke with the Party’s Leadership, thus controlling it.

In short, he is Kim Jong-Un’s real trusted man and this  makes us realize how important the negotiations that will begin on January 9 are for North Korea’s leadership.

We can be certain that, from the beginning, the negotiations will get off track, albeit without exaggerating.

The issue lies above all in talking by symbols and signs – just as the Gods of the ancient Latins did, according to Lucretius, persymbolum et per aenigmate.

For several yearsYi Chol also served as Ambassador to Switzerland, the country in which also Kim Jong-Un studied.

It is also worth recalling that he was also the Supreme Leader’s official representative in the EU, as well as a prudent and very cautious administrator of Kim Jong Il’s personal assets and financial affairs.

Kim Jong-Un is Kim Jong-Il’s third son.

Ri Su-Yol, also known as Yi Chol, was born in 1940. Hence he is a man of experience, without the useless haste typical of young people.

Indeed, he does not look his age.

Therefore he had an elitist and revolutionary training, but he was never the expression of a family or group tradition existing before the Party, nor was he the son of a trusted  official.

In fact he studied at the Revolutionary School of Mangyo’ndae and later at the Namsan School where he was Kim Jong-Il’s classmate.

Later Riwent to study at the Kim Il Sung University and probably finished his studies at the University of Moscow.

Soon after completing his studies, he started to work for  the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In 1972 he was already Head of a Ministry Desk.

In 1974 he became Director General of  the Office for  Protocol and International Organizations.

After the Party’s Sixth Congress held in October 1980, Ri became one of the deputy-Directors of Kim Jong-Il’s Personal Secretary – a real key post.

At the same time, he took up the post of Vice-Director of the Party’s Organization and Guidance Department and, again in 1980, he was appointed Ambassador to Geneva.

It is therefore by no mere coincidence that Riwas sent to represent his country in the capital city of International Organizations which, as in the past, arethe favorite ground  of confrontation or negotiation for the Democratic People’s  Republic of Korea.

In Switzerland he worked for the entire community of North Korean Party Leaders, in addition to taking care of the  personal – and hence political -interest and affairs of both Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il.

Hence we can say that Ri has also become Kim Jong-Un’s trusted man, the essential advisor, the one who knows how to speak to the Westerners, to North Korea’s Friends and to the opponents.

Ri’s career continued in 1987, when he became Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mission in Geneva.

He was later recalled to his home country in March 2010 and appointed Ambassador to Iran, a place of absolute importance for those who know the particular relations existing between North Korea and Iran.

Upon returning to North Korea after his Iranian mission, Ribegan working in the Supreme Leader’s Personal Secretary’s Office.

Finally he led – with absolute correctness, propriety, wisdom and refined knowledge of Western laws and customs – the organization  attracting capital into the North-Eastern region of ​​the country.

Hence it is really easy to understand the emphasis laid by Kim Jong-Un on the new negotiations due to start on  January 9, 2018.

It is worth recalling that in 2014 Ripaid, for the first time,  an official visit to India, in his capacity as Foreign Minister. He was also elected as a full member of the Party’s Politburo by the 7thCentral Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea – another extremely important post for those who know the particular North Korean power elite.

It is also worth noting that the Party always prevails over the State in the political regimes resulting from the  “revolution against Capital” that created the Third International.

Hence something different from traditional Marxism which –  according to the so-called Austro-Marxism, much loved and studied by Giuseppe Saragat- would have resulted in socialdemocracy.

Ri is also Head of the Party’s International Relations Office and in 2017 he was appointed President of the Diplomatic Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly.

Said Assembly is the only representative House since there is no Senate in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Hence what would I like to happen if these negotiations were successful – as I sincerely hope – also on the basis of the profile and caliber of the personality to whom North Korea has entrusted this diplomatic round of negotiations?

Firstly, the mutual recognition between North Korea and the United States of America.

Secondly, an agreement between China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States for the planned reduction of North Korea’s nuclear missile and bacteriological-chemical saturation.

A nuclear missile network that could be controlled by an ad hoc Agency with specific procedures, different and more up-to-date than those used by the IAEA.

Thirdly, an agreement on North Korea’s controlled opening to international capital, with the creation of a North Korean Commission for Foreign Exchange, with a view to avoiding speculative transactions such as those that characterized Russia after the CPSU’s fall.

Fourthly, a fully operational plan of targeted foreign investment for the autonomous economic zones and later for the whole North Korea.

Considering Ri Su-Yong’ skills, if all goes well, we could reach these results sooner than expected.

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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Arrogance of force and hostages in US-China trade war

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Even before the ink on the comments made by those who (just like the author of these lines) saw the recent meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires as a sign of a temporary truce in the trade war between the two countries had time to dry, something like a hostage-taking and the opening of a second front happened. The recent arrest in Canada under US pressure of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of China’s telecommunications giant Huawei, is unfolding into a full-blown international scandal with far-reaching consequences.

Meng Wanzhou faces extradition to the United States where she is suspected of violating US sanctions against Iran, namely by making payments to Tehran via the UK branch of the US bank HSBC. The question is, however, how come someone is trying to indict a Chinese citizen according to the norms of American law, and not even on US territory to boot?

China’s reaction was extremely tough with Deputy Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoning the Canadian and US ambassadors in Beijing and demanding the immediate release of the detainee, calling her detention “an extremely bad act.” First of all, because this is yet another arrogant attempt at extraterritorial use of American laws.

Other countries, above all Russia, have already experienced this arrogance more than once; suffice it to mention the cases of Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, or of the alleged “Russian hackers,” who, by hook or crook, were taken out to the United States to face US “justice”.

Enough is enough, as they say. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is usually careful in his choice of words, said that while Russia is not involved in the US-China trade war, it still regards Meng’s arrest as “another manifestation of the line that inspires a rejection among the overwhelming majority of normal countries, normal people, the line of extraterritorial application of their [US] national laws.”

“This is a very arrogant great-power policy that no one accepts, it already causes rejection even among the closest allies of the US,” Lavrov said. “It is necessary to put an end to it,” he added.

One couldn’t agree with this more. But first, I would like to know who really is behind this provocation, even though China’s reaction would have been much anticipated. The arrest of Meng Wanzhou sent US markets into a tailspin and scared investors, who now expect an escalation of the trade war between the United States and China.

The point here, of course, is Washington’s displeasure about Huawei’s activities, with The Wall Street Journal reporting that the US Justice Department has long been conducting a probe into the Chinese company’s alleged violation of US sanctions against Iran.

There is more to this whole story than just sanctions though. The US accuses Huawei (as it earlier did the Chinese ZTE) of the potential threats the company’s attempts to use tracking devices could pose to the security of America’s telecommunications networks. The United States has demanded that its closest allies (primarily Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, with whom it has set up a system for jointly collecting and using Five Eyes intelligence) exclude 5G Huawei products from their state procurement tenders.

I still believe, however, that the true reason for this is not so much security concerns as it is a desire to beat a competitor. Huawei has become a world-renowned leader in the development and application of 5G communications technology, which looks to the future (“Internet of Things”, “Smart Cities”, unmanned vehicles and much more.)

Since technology and equipment are supplied along with standards for their use, there is a behind-the-scenes struggle going on to phase out the 5G standard developed by Huawei from global markets.

As for the need “to put an end to this,” the big question is how. Formally, detainees are extradited to the United States in line with national legislation, but at Washington’s request (which often comes with boorish and humiliating pressure from the US authorities and is usually never mentioned in public).

Add to this the US Congress’ longstanding practice of changing, unilaterally and at its own discretion, already signed international treaties and agreements as they are being ratified – another example of “arrogance of power” as mentioned before.

The question could well be raised at the UN Security Council, but its discussion is most likely to be blocked by the US representative. However, there is also a moral side to the assessment of any political practice the work on international legal norms usually starts with.

If China and Russia, as well as other countries equally fed up with the “arrogance of power” submit a draft resolution “On the inadmissibility of attempts at extraterritorial use of national legislation by UN member states” to the UN General Assembly, it would most likely enjoy the overwhelming support by most of the countries of the UNGA, maybe save for just a dozen or so of the most diehard advocates of Washington’s policy…

First published in our partner International Affairs

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Will China Save the Planet? Book Review

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Barbara Finamore has been involved in environmental policy in China for decades.  Her new book, Will China Save the Planet?,is a succinct report (120 pg.) on the short, yet promising history of China’s actions to address climate change and pollution.

Chapter 1 is about the recent global leadership role that China has taken in the fight against climate change.  At first, the PRC was hesitant to commit to specific pollution-reduction benchmarks.  After experiencing increasingly devastating bouts of industrial smog in the 1990s however, China began to take its environmental commitments more seriously.  It has set out to become the de facto leader in combatting climate change through ambitious domestic action and sponsoring international conferences.  The Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement has only furthered China’s dominance.

Chapters 2-4 give in-depth analysis on China’s efforts to wean itself off of coal, develop its renewable energy capacity and become a global leader in electric vehicle production.  China has long used coal to fuel its unprecedented rate of industrialization.  In recent years, it has pledged to wean itself off of coal dependency by enforcing coal plant efficiency standards, enacting a cap-and-trade program, managing grid output, promoting local politicians based on their success in implementing green policies and supporting green energy developments.  China is now home to many of the world’s top manufacturers of solar panels, wind turbines and commercial & private electric vehicles.

There is much to applaud China for in its efforts.  Finamore writes that, “After growing by an average of 10% annually from 2002-2012, China’s coal consumption leveled off in 2013 & decreased in each of the following three years… Largely because of the dip in China’s coal consumption, global CO2 emissions growth was basically flat between 2014-2016.”  By moving away from coal, China has been able to, “Every hour… erects a new wind turbine & installs enough solar panels to cover a soccer field.” As of last year, “Chinese solar manufacturers accounted for about 68% of global solar cell production & more than 70% of the world’s production of solar panels.”

Chapter 5 focuses on China’s mission to export its green initiatives around the world, particularly through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).  The BRI is shaping up to be the largest international infrastructure plan in history, investing trillions of dollars in 65 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.  China thus has a golden chance to help much of the developing world to adopt clean energy goals and foster economic growth.  The Chinese government is encouraging its citizens to invest in renewable energy initiatives in the BRI countries by implementing a “green finance” system.  Through its pivotal role in the G20, China can also help to lead the developed world by spearheading reports and policies among the 20 member nations.

Barbara Finamore has written a highly readable and informative overview of China’s role in the global climate change battle.  She lists the Chinese government policies that have led the world’s largest nation to meet and exceed many of the green benchmarks that it set for itself.  It would have been helpful if Finamore had written more about China’s water instability and how that ties to the Tibetan occupation, as access to drinking water is one of the top environmental issues in the world today.  As a whole, Will China Save the Planet?is a good primer for environmental policy analysts and anyone else interested in studying feasible solutions to climate change, humanity’s greatest threat.

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Is Strategic Balancing a ‘New Normal’ in Interlinked World?

Gen. Shashi Asthana

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The G-20 Summit 2018 will be remembered for extraordinary  large number of bilateral and trilateral meetings, which seem to be even more significant than the main purpose of the meet. There are some high profile bilateral meetings like US – China and US – Russia (Scheduling of which has seen many flip-flops) which are very significant in context of Trade-War or Ukraine crisis. The two trilateral meetings involving US-Japan-India and China-Russia-India are also seen to be very significant because of centrality of Indian position in both the meetings. One of the reasons for this phenomenon is that the world is that the world has got interlinked so much as never before, hence even bilateral relations between global powers impact the world directly or indirectly.

When a large number of countries including US allies, strategic and trade partners joined AIIB, against the wishes of US, it was quite evident that a time has come that many countries will like to have alternate sources of funding other than west dominated IMF or Japan dominated ADB and will follow their own national interest. Similarly when China exhibited aggressive design of converting feature and atolls to artificial islands, with a view to have South China Sea as ‘Chinese lake’ based on unilateral interpretation of history ignoring international laws, UNCLOS and decision of ICJ, a group of democratic countries huddled together to form QUAD with a potential to counter balance such moves, which have possibility of obstructing global trade and exploitation of global commons. The Russian aggression westwards post Crimea, brought many western countries together resulting heavy sanctions on Russia, (followed by the recent standoff with Ukraine, Martial Law in some parts of Ukraine and the criticality continues. The Western opposition and sanctions was instrumental in pushing Russia nearer to Beijing. The international relationships and strategic interests of most countries in the interlinked world of today are so interwoven, that it is difficult to count countries only in one grouping; hence many new issue based groupings have emerged in last few decades.

Are Global Powers pushing everyone to Strategic Balancing?

In the exuberance of pursuing ‘America First’ policy, in last few years US has been highly critical of some of its allies, strategic and trade partners, whenever they did not follow a course which was of interest to America. In some cases it used threatening gestures, while some others were put under sanctions. The policy got a major jolt, when they threatened everyone to support their decision of shifting embassy to Jerusalem, but many countries junked the threat and voted as per their own perception. A similar issue came up earlier, when the last US President got all Head of States of ASEAN countries together to discuss South China Sea issue and wanted a joint statement, condemning Chinese actions, but those countries did oblige.  Pulling out of Paris accord for climate change, Iran Nuclear deal, TPP are some more examples when all the ‘Friends of US’ are not on the same page, and decided to continue with it even without US. Pulling out of nuclear deal with Russia is under global criticism, as it could trigger fresh arms race and a dangerous one, although US has some strategic logic to do so in American interest. The last G-7 Summit was not a pleasant experience for US allies due to alleged self centered economic approach of US. The NATO allies are also relatively lesser confident of US backing and keep waiting for next surprise from US Administration. Under these circumstances, Is US Concept of ‘With US’ or ‘Against US’ is outdated in Interlinked World?

On the other hand Chinese after announcing Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, with elevation of President Xi Jinping from ‘Chairman of everything’ to ‘Core’ and ‘Leader for life’, exhibited its expeditionary design starting from South China Sea to land grabbing in Indian Ocean. With its fast growth it tried to showcase its methodology of governance better than democratic model. Its ‘Incremental Encroachment Strategy’ in Doklam as well as South China Sea exhibited its ambitions exceeding beyond peaceful growth to the arena of global strategic dominance; hence it started facing opposition from a group of democratic countries in various forms like formulation of QUAD and other groupings. Interestingly most of Chinese neighbors did not buy its method of governance and some of them went democratic in recent past, while maintaining good relations with it. In case of Russia also, we find Germany, a US ally drawing gas from them. Russia and China helping out North Korea with fuel and essentialities immediately after Singapore Summit between President Trump and Kim. Russia a strategic partner of India supplying military hardware to Pakistan and many other countries. A cross pollination of relations is therefore quite evident.

Analysing the cases of three global powers above, a time has come when most countries want to manage their international relations as per their own national interest, and do not want their strategic choices to be dictated by others. The strategic autonomy is quite dear to every sovereign country. It is also a fact that the world today is much more interlinked; hence issue based relationships is increasing. In context of the above let me analyze few cases justifying the ‘Compulsion of Strategic Balancing’ in international dynamics.

Japan’s Insecurity and Prime Minister Abe’s visit to China followed by meeting Indian Counterpart

During Prime Minister Abe’s visit to China on the 40th anniversary of the ‘Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China’ hardly any issues of divergences was discussed. It was looked as an effort to ‘Fostering Mutual Political Trust’ and ‘Cooperation and Confidence Building in Maritime and Security Affairs’. Beyond good optics, It can be seen as an effort to balance out/reset relations with China, and a messaging to Uncle Sam, about independence in foreign policy formulation of Japan. Immediately after this first visit to Beijing since 2012, Prime Minister Abe hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a resort near Mount Fuji for a luncheon Sunday, just a day after returning from talks with the leader of China. While the leaders may call India-Japan partnership having been strengthened as a ‘special strategic and global partnership,’ but beyond the optics, it can be termed as an effort to balance relations between China and India as well.  India would perhaps be looking to move forward in convergences, and need not be concerned of Sino -Japan engagement because India and Japan have hardly any issues of divergences. The balancing/resetting by Japan in international relations was again exhibited, by the fact that Japanese PM seems to be  “determined” to wrap up talks toward peace treaty based on 1956 declaration with Putin, stipulating the return of two of four northern islands by Russia to Japan, while retaining claim on all four. The self confidence of Japan in balancing act between US, China, Russia and India is noticeable.

South Korean bonhomie with North Korea

South Korea despite being apprehensive of dangerous arsenal of North Korea, continues to be an ally of US. Deployment of THAAD, military exercises with US forces, have caused great anxiety not only in North Korea, but in China and Russia as well. Despite heavy sanctions on North Korea, it continued with its nuclear and missile tests. When President Trump started giving confusing signals of ‘America First’ and asking allies to pay for their security, South Korea was inclined to attempt peace in Korean Peninsula and making it nuclear free. It was successful in seemingly impossible diplomatic exercise of getting together Kim and President Trump together for a summit. As an analyst, I do not count the summit anything beyond optics, as nothing worthwhile has changed in nuclear and long range missiles capabilities of North Korea as well as UN sanctions, but South Korea has improved its relations with North considerably applying the theory of strategic balance. North and South Korea had Summits, exhibiting lot of bonhomie, decided to field one sports team under single flag, started people to people contact, and South Korea started helping North Korea with essential humanitarian needs, where China and Russia joined in to start business as usual with North Korea, immediately after Singapore Summit. The optics of keeping missiles and nukes away from North Korean parade does not mean that it will really destroy the only leverage it has, which is making US talk to him, and condemning Rouhani and Assad, looking for regime change there. Some symbolic destruction of few testing sites by North Korea and destruction of few posts along demilitarized zone does not mean that South has full confidence over North Korea but it clearly indicates that South Korea is balancing/resetting relations between them.

India’s Strategic behavior: Is it different than Balancing/Resetting International relations?

Post Wuhan visit of Prime Minister Modi to China it is being alleged by western media that India has perhaps drifted towards China. In my opinion there is hardly any worthwhile change in Indian strategic behavior. India has a set of convergences and divergences of interests with major global players namely China, USA and Russia. India has so far been able to keep these relations exclusive of each other; hence has been able to successfully manage an independent foreign relationship without any bias. In the turbulent complex environment of today, our convergences and divergences have started impacting each other. India’s differences with China on certain aspects of Sino-Pak nexus, use of global commons in South China Sea, its adventurism in Indian Ocean, and obstruction to Indian entry in NSG can also be viewed as convergence of interests with US. India’s differences with US on trade, tariff, and CAATSA in context of Russia can be seen as convergence of interests with China 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 its strategic interest. The US waiver on Chabahar port and connectivity to Afghanistan, as well import of Iranian oil for next six month is a welcome step by US towards its strategic partner India.

After Indian expression to expand the scope and dimension of QUAD, opening it up to other affected countries, there is a general feeling amongst other QUAD members that India is perhaps getting softer towards China in progressing QUAD agenda. The reality is that India has an independent foreign policy.  In Indo-Pacific, it stands with US, Japan and Australia in checking Chinese encroachment of global common like South China Sea, stands for seamless movement in international water and rule based order. Interestingly none of the QUAD members have common unsettled land borders with China. In land frontier and combating proxy war, India has to fight its own battle with some help from friendly countries including equipment from Russia, Israel, France to name a few, besides Indian friends from QUAD, hence it has to tackle relationship with China in a different manner than other members of QUAD. India therefore has to maintain harmonious relations with all its friends and neighbors to pursue its national interest. Despite such complexities, the silver lining is that the US, as well as China want better relations with India and vice versa. Russia also will not like to give up the largest purchaser of military hardware and a strategic partnership which stood the test of time even in ‘Heated Cold War’ era, hence, with smart diplomacy, India should be able to manage an independent foreign policy in current global environment. The number of bilateral and trilateral meetings attended by India clearly explains the balancing diplomatic exercises carried out by India, as per its National interest. Indian participation in two significant trilateral meetings namely US-Japan-India and China-Russia-India signifies the centrality of India. It clearly indicates the efforts required to balance out relations with two separate groupings which have wide gap in perceptions.

Unilateralism is Outdated/Impractical Concept

There is a growing opinion that US needs to revise its policy of sanctions and CAATSA. The analysis suggests that President Trump’s reintroduction of sanctions on Iran,(with many of its allies still honoring Iran Nuclear Deal), as well as further push on CAATSA (without modification) on countries trading with Russia might edge US towards its own diplomatic/ strategic and economic isolation in the long run . The ICJ decision on 03 October 2018 ordering US to remove any restrictions on the export of humanitarian goods and services to Iran to some extent shows that the world may not always buy US narrative on sanctions. Similarly Chinese aggressive stance in South China Sea will continue to bring resistance in different forms by collective efforts of affected parties, and its purse diplomacy will not work everywhere. Ongoing Trade War, strengthening of Taiwan and military posturing in South China Sea are indicators which will discomfort China.  In interlinked world interactions with all countries wherever their interests converge is the order of the day. Japanese trade with China, visit of Prime Minister Abe to China followed by visit of Prime Minister Modi and Countries pursuing relations with Saudi Arabia despite CIA revelations are some examples of this new normal in future. It is also expected that in a multilateral world of today, no one country will be able to dictate the strategic choices of others or force any country not to act in its national interest in future. It also proves a point that any country, which thinks that it can rule the world all by itself, is sadly mistaken in the future world, which is overly interlinked.

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