The failure of the ongoing negotiations, while North Korea is willing to suspend its nuclear and missile program, will definitely Washington make, in the face of international criticism, disrupting the talks and not having an honest approach to addressing the crisis.
After a stormy period of the nuclear reciprocity threat and the North Korean and American leaders’ strife towards each other, which pushed the world to the brink of a devastating war, now the situation has changed in general and there are constructive and positive constructive messages of the desire for dialogue and Tensions are released daily by Trump and Kim Jong-un. The most recent developments in recent days have revealed the controversial travel of Mike Pompeo, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to Pyongyang, the establishment of a direct contact between the two Koreas, as well as North Korea’s surprise announcement in suspending its nuclear and missile program. Which have contributed to a ghostly security vision of the peninsula at once to make a clear horizon for peace. Accordingly, the question now is whether we should look forward to a historic bargain so that almost the last bastion of the communist system (based on the collective economic system) is also conquered by the leader of global capitalism, thus witnessing a new chapter in the relationship between the United States and North Korea.
A record of North Korea’s willingness to negotiate and resolve conflicts with the United States and the West can be found several times in the past.
In October 1994, the United States and North Korea launched a deal called “An Agreed Framework” in which Pyongyang committed to stop its nuclear program under the protection of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safeguards (IAEA) Slowly By contrast, it was promised to build two nuclear reactors for civilian use and 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil per year and other aid, including food aid.
But ultimately, this agreement was followed by the failure to build the promised reactors because of the continuation of Western sanctions against Pyongyang and the failure to implement food assistance programs due to disputes, and Pyongyang secretly continued its nuclear research program.
On February 29, 2012, the United States and North Korea announced a new agreement, called “Mutual Day Agreement.” Under this plan, North Korea has pledged to suspend its uranium enrichment program and its missile tests, and continue to prevent international monitoring of its nuclear program. Instead, the United States also announced it will send Pyongyang food aid to 240,000 tons.
But the agreement, like the “agreed framework”, did not last long, and months later, the United States stopped supplying its food aid on the pretext of continuing North Korea’s missile program in the form of satellite launch.
The Korean leader, quoting the media, has said he does not want to experience what happened to Gaddafi in Libya and Saddam in Iraq, who were attacked by a Western military strike. But the fact is North Korea’s addiction to nuclear weapons is far beyond the recent US intervention in Iraq and Libya.
Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the current Korean leader, even considered a nuclear weapon even before the communist regime in Pyongyang on September 9, 1948. At the end of World War II, thousands of Korean workers were fired from Japan and settled in the northeastern part of the Korean Peninsula occupied by the Soviet Union. Many of them were engaged in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were attacked by the United States in August 1945. They returned to their country with stories of “Resurrection” weapons, which brought enmity to the United States with fear of being completely destroyed.
This fear became more and more pessimistic among not only North Korean leaders, but even the people of the country, which the United States intended to launch nuclear attacks against the North. On December 9, 1950, US commander General Douglas MacArthur even said that he had provided a list of 26 atomic bombs to prevent the development of the North Korean army and its Chinese allies.
Also, in September 1956, the United States decided to deploy nuclear weapons on South Korean territory, in breach of clause 13 (d) of the cease-fire agreement. The decision was made at various stages in 1957 and 1958. The efforts of the Soviet Union and its allies in the United Nations to prevent the decision of the United States did not get anywhere.
On the other hand, North Korea began to build ground-based underground conventional weapons near the obstacle area, with South Korean and American troops capturing these weapons. In 1963, North Korea helped the Soviet Union to acquire nuclear technology and weapons, but this request was not accepted. Nonetheless, the Soviets agreed to help North Korea’s peaceful nuclear program, including training its experts. Later, China opposed North Korea’s similar request.
North Korea has since demanded that nuclear weapons be used to counteract and prevent a possible US strike, thereby guaranteeing its survival. In 1965, a nuclear research reactor at Yongbyon in northern Pyongyang opens and launches North Korea’s nuclear program. The Yong-byon Center was established with the assistance of the Soviet Union. In the 1960s and 1970s, more than 300 North Korean nuclear scientists were trained at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, the Bowman Technical School, and the Moscow Energy Institute. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian and German scientists continued to assist in the development of the country’s nuclear program in Korea.
Eventually, on October 3, 2006, the North Korean Foreign Ministry announced in response to US threats that it was planning to test a nuclear bomb and that this happened historically for Korea three days later.
Another issue that makes it impossible to look at the results of possible talks between the leaders of the United States and North Korea optimistically is the reality of the indirect involvement of China and Russia and other regional actors in the issue. Of course, the North Korean nuclear crisis is not just a two-way issue between the United States and Pyongyang, and other major powers, including China and Russia, are involved.
From one perspective, while Trump considers the Security Council’s sweeping sanctions as a factor in turning North Korean leaders to the negotiating table, with a closer look at the matter, the main reason for Pyongyang’s willingness to negotiate under current conditions is to push China on Korea. North and Beijing has been accompanied by international sanctions against the country.
After four costly nuclear tests, 2012 has been closely linked to Beijing with international economic development sanctions. Also, according to the UN report in July 2017, rainfall in North Korea dropped dramatically, affecting food shortages. Under these circumstances, Beijing’s policy to reduce the import of textile and fuel products from North Korea is a major contributor to Pyongyang’s engagement with Trump.
But why has China, which has always used North Korea’s support as a leverage to pressure the United States and its allies in the region and prevent the Alliance’s two rivers, now has a policy of protecting Korea’s non-stagnation? The answer to this question should be America’s mainstream strategy in the Far East to confront the uprising of China, which has come to power since the Obama era, and has now been intensified in the Trump era. Under the pretext of Korea’s nuclear program, the United States deployed its own nuclear weapons bombers in South Korea, under the pretext of Korea’s nuclear program and the need to support its allies, and during the Trump period, intensified its military presence in East Asia, and the establishment of the Advanced Thad developed Missile Defense System (THAAD) in South Korea and Japan accelerated. The system, with a range of about 1,000 km of radar, is capable of monitoring the depths of China’s soil and parts of Russia’s soil, which will be a major contributor to the strategic advantage of the United States against these rivals. The sensitivity of this issue is better understood when it comes to the fact that Washington, in three important documents, determines its foreign policy and national security strategy during the Trump era of China and Russia as the most important threats to national security and US hegemony and the necessity he has cited them.
On the other hand, North Korea’s past record has shown that Pyongyang has in the past also welcomed the negotiation process for resolving disputes and ending hostilities.
Therefore, it can be admitted that the Pyongyang tendency to negotiate cannot be considered as a surrender to the will of America. But what it seems certain is that with this move, North Korea, China and Russia have thrown the ball on the American soil. The United States looks at the continuation of military presence and the strengthening of these forces near the borders of China and Russia from a strategic imperative to maintain its own interests and prevent China from gaining power. This need is similarly raised by other US allies in the region, such as Japan. Therefore, it can be expected that the failure of the negotiations ahead with North Korea refusing to suspend its nuclear and missile program will surely put Washington in a position of international criticism to disrupt talks and lack honest approach to resolve the crisis. . Indeed, the United States is now facing North Korea’s willingness to negotiate with the demands of China and Russia to reduce its military presence in the region in order to bring about talks. An issue that White House policymakers are not willing to accept.
Twists and Turns in US -China Trade War
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.
The talks held in September 2018 between Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-In
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.
China’s Imprint underneath the Pyongyang Joint Declaration
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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