Russia has never disregarded the North Korean nuclear and missile issue nor its support for North Korea.
Russia will never relinquish its safety belt against the US forces stationed in South Korea and, above all, Kim Jong-Un’s possible military shield towards the USA and its allies in Southeast Asia. If anything, the issue lies in replacing this shield with an equally effective economic or strategic and conventional delimitation.
On August 15, 2018, Kim Jong-Un sent an important telegram for congratulating Vladimir Putin on the occasion of the 73rd anniversary of Korea’s liberation from the Japanese domination.
It should be recalled that the united Korean empire ended in 1910, but the Japanese-Korean Treaty of 1876 integrated the peninsula in the Meji Empire, the historical and cultural phase in which Japan acquired the Western technologies and cultures to expand its “co-prosperity area” throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
An area bound to naturally lap upon the US area of influence – at that time as now.
It is worth remembering, however, that Korea’s industrialization began precisely in its phase of independence from Japan, while the subordination to the Japanese Empire led not only to a massive exploitation of the Korean labour force for the Japanese purposes, but also to a radical cultural and psychological dispossession of the people in that peninsula and of their traditions.
There is no geopolitics without a geo-cultural analysis.
As Aristotle said, “Even God cannot change the past”- and the old 20th century balances of power still draw the limits of the possible strategies which can be implemented both in Korea and in the rest of maritime South Asia.
Currently the United States can also aspire to excessively expand its power to the myriad of Pacific islands, thus conquering them all to keep none, just to encircle Japan.
Or it can hold the security coordinates of the Straits of Malacca, in order to keep on controlling those areas of world trade.
However, let us revert to the telegram recently sent by Kim Jong-Un.
In the telegram he wished Russian President Vladimir Putin good luck with his plans for “building a powerful Russia” and recalled that “the peoples of the two countries struggled shoulder to shoulder against the common enemy in the arduous anti-Japanese war”.
This paves the way for renewed friendship between the Russian Federation and North Korea, which will “serve as driving force to continuously develop bilateral relations as required by a new era”.
In other words, Kim Jong-Un wants to renew the traditional ties with Russia to rebalance those with China – which are certainly equally important – without excluding them.
Thanks to the Western superficiality, North Korea has excellent relations with both Russia and China and it does not want to lose them or to create preferential relations with one country or the other.
In particular, the North Korean Leader does not intend to currently neglect the old and timeless Russian ally, which is now redesigning and reshaping the Greater Middle East – the terrestrial defensive outpost of his North Korea and, in any case, a guarantee for his land security to the North and to the West.
An important security for North Korea, at least as much as the maritime one that mainly pertains to its alliance with China.
In the almost immediate reply to the North Korean leader, Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin wrote he was ready to meet with him in the near future in Moscow.
In recent years many promises have been made to organize a Summit between Kim Jong-Un and Vladimir Putin, but they have never come true.
It is mainly the fault of the unpredictable adjustment of equilibria in the Pacific after 2006, the year of North Korea’s military and official nuclearization.
There were many secret meetings, especially in the acute phases of the 2017 missile crisis, and sometimes simultaneously with President Trump’s visits to Moscow.
Most likely, in these very confidential meetings, the discussion was also focused on the possibility of moving significant parts of the Russian Armed Forces on the border with North Korea.
At that time, the significance of these historical operations of the Russian Armed Forces in the Primorsky area was evident: to show to the United States that the Russian Federation did not accept any threat to North Korea and that, in any case, Russia would significantly defend the North Korean territory from a joint US-South Korean action.
It was quite obvious: even today neither the Russian Federation nor the People’s Republic of China are interested in having a country linked only to the USA, but defeated or weak,on its borders.
Moreover, while defending North Korea, Russia can currently play the role of broker and mediator between the two Koreas and control the strategic triangle between the two post-Cold War nations of the Korean peninsula with Japan.
Another centre of primary strategic interest of the Russian Federation.
In fact, in January 2017 Putin stated that Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear-missile program was “a threat to security in North-East Asia”, but he also asked South Korea to reject the anti-missile structure THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) offered to it by the United States.
Weakening of the entire peninsula and maintenance of North Korea’s margin of attack. This is the simple, but lucid Russian strategic formula.
Moreover, since the very beginning, Russia has accepted the UN sanctions against North Korea under evident suspicion and some Russian companies have been hit just because they have not avoided trading “sensitive” goods and services with North Korea.
It is even more obvious that currently Russia does not want a North Korean State, on its land border of only eleven miles, that can accumulate potentials capable of threatening the terrestrial and Asian area to the Middle East with threats tous azimuts.
Or a State that can create – in an extremely important area for Russia – a sequence of regional crises drawing the attention of the major global strategic actors.
The strategy is to make the Korean peninsula a peripheral area and weakening its global irritant thorns.
This is the same policy of China in North Korea. In the future, however, China will also try to integrate North Korea into its Central Asian project to control the Turkmen jihad and into its policy of economic and military expansion to the Pacific region.
Moreover, it cannot be ruled out that China does not want a military contribution from North Korea in its protection of the Belt and Road Initiative to the South.
Furthermore Russia has always had a strong strategic interest in the whole Asian maritime region, in general, and in the Southern one, in particular.
In fact, Putin has always maintained that Russia’s active policy vis-à-vis the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) – the 21 economies and the Korean peninsula – is essential for all the Asian projects of the Russian Federation.
Projects that, as can be easily understood, tend to offset and replace the sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries.
Currently Russia has these primary interests in the Asian-Pacific region: to develop the Siberian area well and quickly; to integrate the Asian region into its system of trade relations with the old Asian-Southern countries of the former USSR; to increase the Russian presence in the Asian economies, especially in medium and high-tech goods, with a view to avoiding the penetration of others into those markets and finally avoiding the jihadist radicalization of internal conflicts, especially in the framework of the confrontation between the United States and China.
Hence with these moves, which also include the Russian economic policy vis-à-vis North Korea, the Russian Federation stands as a necessary “third power” throughout the Asian-Pacific region.
Here the preferential relationship with North Korea is essential.
Therefore it is not strange that, for the next Summit between Putin and Kim Jong-Un, the possibility was considered of the next Eastern Economic Forum scheduled in Vladivostok in September.
This would have been the occasion for a series of meetings also with the Chinese and Japanese leaders, but it is exactly in September that Kim Jong-Un shall follow all the preparatory work for the 70th anniversary of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Indeed, Russia wants to meet Kim Jong-Un alone. Currently it has no interest in a friendly internationalization of the North-Korean issue.
The 70th anniversary is a date that will mark a new condition for North Korea – and this is the meaning that Kim Jong-Un wants to give to the celebrations. It is a condition of reaffirmation of the regime’s solitary power and of new and positive openness to the world.
Furthermore the North Korean leader wants to well prepare the bilateral meeting with Putin that will mean, above all, that North Korea does not depend on China’s interests only. Hence a tactical delay is better.
In fact, as he has already been doing for some time, Kim Jong-Un wants to implement an opportunistic policy, but without really betraying any of the two Asian and Eurasian players.
In particular, North Korea wants a share of national strategic autonomy in the future context of its admission to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Hence, apart from India which, together with Pakistan, has recently followed the works of what China finds it difficult to define as the “NATO of the East”, SCO will have a vertical strategic axis between the Indian Ocean and South East Asia to the Pacific region. And it will certainly depend on North Korea’s future military policy.
This vertical axis, however, will be the whole Korea – with the autonomous North Korea which, in Putin’s and Xi Jinping’s designs, will be partially integrated into the SCO together with South Korea.
At least Putin alone will grant to North Korea as much geopolitical autonomy as it will be necessary to the Russian Federation in order to: a) avoid any regional hegemony of the United States and its primary allies in the region; b) preserve the security of the its sea borders with North Korea; c) avoid giving a clear field to China.
China has mainly an oceanic interest in Kim Jong-Un’s Korea.
Russia, however, possibly want to create a strategic continuum between its Central Asian terrestrial region, which has its stronghold in the new Syria, and the Vietnamese coasts. Like the Krak of the Knights which, in the Syrian desert was an offensive rather than a defensive castle, as Lawrence of Arabia told us, currently Assad’ Syria is the Western bulwark of every “colour revolution” or jihad that can penetrate the post-Soviet Central Asia or the maritime corridor leading this area to the North-West borders of North Korea.
There is also the possibility – theorized by some analysts, especially from the North American school – that Vladimir Putin wants to oppose the US peripheral expansion everywhere, especially in Southeast Asia, where the US strategic defeat of the twentieth century began, so as to eventually replace the United States as a global player.
And currently the axis mundi is in Asia, not in Europe or in other parts of the West.
We are not sure that Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin really wants to create a US global dissymmetry with respect to the China-Russia’s axis.
If this happens, it shall only be USA’s fault.
The long-term diverging interests between Russia and China are still there – and precisely in a region that closely affects the Asian geopolitical choices vis-à-vis North Korea, namely Russia’s terrestrial Far East and Siberia.
There is the economic contrast – inevitable in the future – between the Eurasian Economic Union, organized by Russia in 2014 between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and, currently, also Kyrgyzstan, and the Chinese network of the Belt and Road Initiative. This is another problem that Kim Jong-Un shall resolve, at least apparently, once ceased the US (and Japanese) pressure on North Korea.
With a credible project, the United States could open part of its markets to North Korean products and create –just in the territory of North Korea – a network of Foreign Direct Investments that would shield the fledgling industry from Chinese or Russian pressures.
However, this is probably a vain hope.
Moreover Chinese investment in the Russian Far East is not as much as that which had been predicted and hoped for by Russia: China has no particular interest in Russia’s Arctic North and it is rather interested in the central axis of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Furthermore, if China continues to invest in the Arctic infrastructure, together with Russia, this will only be in view of a de facto or de jure transfer of the Russian sovereignty over the North Pole areas in which currently both countries work together.
Also this balance between China and Russia is bound to greatly influence North Korea’s external political developments.
Hence, in terms of North Korea’s nuclear power, as early as 2006 – the year of the first true North Korean test -it was China that integrated North Korea into its Asian strategic project and proposed a bilateral dialogue with the United States for the solution of the North Korean issue.
This has de facto excluded the Russian Federation from the Korean games.
Russia reacted almost immediately with its support to the sanctions against North Korea within the UN Security Council, thus creating an equal-footing balance with the United States on the issue.
An opportunity that the United States did not grasp at the right time.
Sanctions, however, have not really been accepted by the Russian economic system: North Korean coal exports to Russia continue; many Asian workers have long been migrating to Russian factories near the border; the new railway networks, which should shortly connect Russia with North Korea and always end up in South Korea, are being called into question.
Currently trade between Russia and North Korea is worth approximately 110 million US dollars a year.
Moreover, despite the letter and the spirit of the UN sanctions, Russia has not repatriated the thousands of North Korean workers it still hosts.
Furthermore, Russia still organizes many North Korean international financial and trade relations, thus supporting the operations for circumventing sanctions.
The railway line between Russia and the North Korean port of Razon is essential, but currently – also in tacit competition with China – it is the Russian Federation that provides North Korea with some Internet networks.
Incidentally, it would be good if the UN sanction mechanism – which, as some UN sources maintain, is scarcely transparent and often irrational – were radically revised: it keeps the US financial hegemony well beyond its rational limits, with dangers also for America; it unbalances financial markets that should be – at least officially – “free” and finally creates the opportunity, for the country on which sanctions are applied, to move directly to the adverse camp.
What would have happened to Italy if the sanctions of the League of Nations following the conquest of Abyssinia had not found in Nazi Germany the only, but certainly very interested adversary?
Nevertheless, in all likelihood, the turning point of the new relationship between Russia and North Korea will be the new pipeline that is supposed to transfer natural gas from the Russian Federation to both Koreas.
We will never understand the Russian strategic logic if we think it will accept the partition of the Korean peninsula as a fait accompli: Russia always thinks of both Koreas. And it would be crazy not to do so.
In the North, Russia operates to make North Korea “loyal” to the Russian strategic project while, in the South, it endeavors to curb the US and Japanese influence as much as possible.
Furthermore, there will soon be concrete signs of the Russian interest in the large group of industries in Kaesong, as well as the possible penetration of the Russian economy into the future North Korean automotive and mechanical industries, and finally the possible creation of an ad hoc Bank for the globalization of the Korean economy to the East and eventually to Europe.
Along the Southern flank of the Russian geo-economic security which is parallel to, but different from the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.
North Korea’s future geopolitical choice will be between the Chinese Belt and Road lines and those provided by the Russian maritime and terrestrial continuity on its borders.
BRI: Shared Future for Humanity
The terrestrial and maritime connectivity proposed by the Chinese government back in 2013 with six connectivity corridors reflects the vision of shared future for humanity. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an omen of modern transformation of the globe. The journey of transition from geo-politics to geo-economics is itself a huge achievement. As geo-economics brought in the partnership and collaboration for mutual gains whereas geo-politics reflects competition, for instance, arm race.
BRI a network of terrestrial and maritime passages encompassing (1) the New Eurasian Land Bridge connects Western China to Western Russia; (2) the China-Mongolia-Russia Corridor, from Northern China to Eastern Russia; (3)the China-Central Asia-Western Asia Corridor, links China to Turkey; (4) the Corridor from Southern China to the Indochinese peninsula up to Singapore; (5) the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor; and (6) the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Corridor. In other words BRI is one of the longest connectivity route from the Chinese coast to Singapore to Gwadar up to the Mediterranean. Among all the above mentioned projects, CPEC is a model project with so much in its credit.
CPEC is the flagship project of the Belt & Road Initiative. CPEC is a mutually agreed initiative including 4 key areas of cooperation i.e. energy projects, infrastructure development, Gwadar Port, and industrial cooperation. This cooperation has further strengthened the time tested friendship. China – Pakistan strategic cooperation is an essential ingredient for the South Asian peace recipe. CPEC, not merely focus on commerce and trade but also include social development projects as well. Pak-China Friendship Hospital, Pak-China School, Gwadar Airport, and many more are prominent examples of this initiative. The first phase of CPEC is almost complete and is all ready to enter into the second phase. The first phase was comprised of energy and road projects whereas the second phase might also entails agriculture, education, health, water and much more. Here in our case, when there is an atmosphere of non-kinetic threats, development is the only option. Internal harmony and peace can only be achieved when there is no sense of deprivation. In addition, inclusion of third party in CPEC project, and also connecting it with the Central Asian Republics and Russia is also a progressive move. Opening it for the private business sector and creating 80,000 jobs, all are signs of social uplifting and gradual development. CPEC is an inclusive project for Pakistan and for the region.
China is focusing on and playing a key role in connecting the continents. Being an emerging power, China, considers the role of regional connections vital for the global peace and prosperity. Hence, BRI is a positive-sum cooperation. It’s a platform for dialogue, and developing new paths of cooperation encompassing government to government, people to people, business to business and media to media relations. BRI is the, opening up and connectivity, with an aim on promoting global peace and cooperation, and building a global community with a bright future for mankind. Moreover, it promotes connectivity through passages of commerce and trade. There is also a shift in the international balance, leaning towards east from west, considering it a breath of fresh air. Belt and Road Initiative is turning the myth “21st Century is the Asian Century” into reality.
BRI is a network of exchange, exchange of happiness and prosperity, exchange of knowledge and technology, exchange of expertise to perform well for mutual interests. It is the beginning of the inclusive global future. Hence, it is the time for profound change and reforms. For growth, for being dynamic, change is normal. So, reforms, propel states to accomplish goals not only at national level but international level too. The way BRI brought countries and regions together, enhancing trade, developing state of the art infrastructure, boosting investment, strengthening cultural ties, and people to people exchanges, all making BRI, the Central Nervous System of the world.
The true essence of BRI is regional integration, a horizontal, non-vertical integration with no hegemonic designs with an aim to limit the world recession damage. Furthermore, as the second BRI forum is scheduled in late April this year, there is much more to come. As mentioned, BRI is a pie, having share for all; it’s not a debt trap. In order to win the confidence of all the partnering states, and to lessen the suspicion, China is trying to avoid the ‘debt traps’. Though, there is no such state in unsustainable Chinese government debt pressure. It basically provides equality based cooperation, and a green & sustainable development. Second BRI forum is the right time to kickstart the “Second Phase” of Belt & Road. Many foreign heads of state and government, and thousands of delegates will be attending the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, or BRF. As mentioned by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, “it will include a series of events, such as leaders’ round table, high-level meeting, and thematic forum, CEO conference, under the theme of Belt and Road cooperation shaping a brighter shared future. There will also be more side events, including 12 thematic forums focusing on practical cooperation, and for the first time a conference organized specifically for the business community”.
The globe has already been struck by two major economic depressions. Asian continent also faced one in 1997 when East and Southeast Asia was crippled economically. The world direly needs a remedy in order to sustain the global economy which can only be done through economic and cultural interconnectivity.BRI aims to be a torch bearer in order to bring the financial benefits to the globe. The global prosperity is need of an hour in modern world order but this can be achieved through collective efforts.
China: Via Portugal into Africa and Latin America
Portugal is a major geographical link in the European leg of China’s New Silk Road project (NSR). A visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Lisbon on December 4-5, 2018 produced seventeen cooperation agreements thereby reaffirming the two parties’ readiness to expand economic partnership.
China is Portugal’s top trading partner in Asia, with bilateral trade steadily on the rise amounting to $5.6 billion in 2017. The volume of Chinese investment in the Portuguese economy has reached $ 10.2 billion. Simultaneously, the influx of tourists from China to Portugal has gone up by 40% and from Portugal to China by 16%. The Chinese Embassy in Lisbon has described the current state of Sino-Portuguese relations as the best since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1979.
The livening up of Sino-Portuguese relations is key to Beijing’s comprehensive strategy of boosting cooperation with Portuguese-speaking countries. Adopted fifteen years ago, this strategy has brought about an increase in the volume of trade between the PRC and the Portuguese-speaking nations by more than 19 times – from $ 6 billion in 2002 to $ 117.6 billion in 2017.
In this context, an economic union with Lisbon is designed to geographically complete the European sector of the New Silk Road project (NSR) given the location of Portugal as the western tip of the European continent. Also, such an alliance is set to project Chinese economic influence through Portugal to countries of Africa and Latin America.
China is number one trading partner of three Portuguese-speaking countries: Brazil (trade turnover in 2018 at $ 29.5 billion), Angola ($ 26 billion) and Mozambique ($ 168 million).
The port of Sines – Portugal’s sea gate to the Atlantic and Africa – carries a particular importance with its well-developed infrastructure and all the facilities to be used as a transit point for Chinese products bound for America and Africa. Another important point is the Azores, a part of Portuguese territory stretching deep into the Atlantic. Lisbon has consented to Beijing’s participation in the construction of scientific and logistics infrastructure in the archipelago, which is tantamount to a stronger Chinese economic presence in the region.
Lisbon favors joint participation with Beijing in investment projects in Portuguese-speaking Africa. African countries have expressed a similar intention. In January 2019, the Angolan Parliament ruled to abolish double taxation with Portugal, China and the United Arab Emirates.
Lisbon-mediated cooperation with Portuguese-speaking countries will enable Beijing to guarantee food security. According to UN reports, Angola is among the top five countries with the greatest agricultural potential (58 million hectares of arable land), Mozambique has 36 million hectares, of which less than six are cultivated, while Brazil is the main supplier of soybean, a popular food product for China (14 million tons in 2018).
In relation to China and within the NSR project, Portugal plays the role of an infrastructure and logistics counterweight to France, which is trying to shift the focus of French-Chinese cooperation in the direction of the Mediterranean and North Africa – to fight against terrorism in the Sahel region and provide investment support of the French-speaking Sahel “Five” (Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali).
Beijing is interested in moving via the Atlantic westward. From the geographical point of view, Portugal is a good partner here – cooperation with it takes China beyond the Mediterranean. According to the Chinese leader, for Beijing, Lisbon is a point of linking the land and sea segments of the NSR and a promising partner in the development of the “sea wave economy”.
The position of Paris regarding the NSR project is characterized as cautiously positive, envisaged by the Franco-German Aachen agreement of January 22, 2019 and affected by competition with Italy (Italian Trieste and French Marseille compete for the main port of the NSR in the Mediterranean).
The Aachen agreement diplomatically outlines the geopolitical axis Paris-Berlin, endowing the French-German relations with a special status. Against export-oriented German economy (in 2018, exports went up 3% against 2017, reaching $ 1.318 billion), Beijing’s economic activity in Europe is seen as a challenge.
Negotiations between French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker and China’s Xi Jinping on March 25-26 demonstrated the EU’s consolidated position and marked a successful attempt to secure common gains from building up cooperation between the EU (without Italy) and the PRC.
While France readily signed multibillion-dollar contracts with China and agreed to the opening of the Chinese market for French goods, it refrained from actively assisting the Chinese in pursuing transcontinental infrastructure projects as unwelcome for the economic health of the Franco-German duumvirate.
First published in our partner International Affairs
North Korea’s future international relations
Rumors are rife in world diplomacy circles that the United States wanted to force the hand in the recent talks with North Korea held in Hanoi last March.
The US side, in particular, tried to achieve a broader definition of “denuclearization”, a criterion capable of simultaneously eliminating the missile network, precisely the nuclear one, as well as the North Korean facilities for chemical warfare.
At the end of March, a report informed that the United States had asked North Korea to remove the whole stock of fissile material and relinquish all bacteriological warfare programmes.
All this only in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Too much, considering the level reached by the previous negotiations.
Obviously, the North Korean delegation was certainly not very close to US requests, while North Korea’s deputy-Foreign Minister, Choe Son Hui, argued with Mike Pompeo and John Bolton because they created a strong “obstacle” to negotiations.
North Korea’s representatives in the Hanoi negotiations, however, stopped the talks because they had not the qualifications nor the political mandate to treat the issue of denuclearization with the United States in this “global” way.
Nevertheless, John Bolton, who is certainly not a great supporter of dialogue between the United States and North Korea, seized the opportunity of the block of negotiations. In the lack of a precise North Korean policy line, he asked for an overall, quick and absolute denuclearization, being well aware that this request could not be accepted by the North Korean delegation.
Again following Bolton’s policy line, the United States added to this request- which was hardly likely to be accepted – the total destruction of chemical and bacteriological weapons.
It is strange that,in Hanoi, experienced and skillful mediators conducted so tough negotiations, even naïve in their harshness.
Furthermore, the United States asked North Korea for news about a “secret base for uranium enrichment” near the Yongbyon facilities.
Finally, the United States also asked for a “statement of all nuclear activities” in North Korea, as well as a clear roadmap for denuclearization.
As if the matter were only in North Korean hands.
A management of negotiations that may probably be fine for US internal political purposes, but certainly does not favour any positive evolution of the North Korean nuclear issue.
In his last meeting with President Trump, however, Kim Jong-Un brought to Hanoi the sole promise of fully scrapping, in a short period of time, the Yongbyon nuclear research centre.
The United States, however, did not well understand whether the Yongbyon facilities to be closed regarded only the reactor that has been producing plutonium since 1980 or whether the closure offered by Kim Jong-Un regarded the whole plant, with its many centrifuges for uranium and reactors.
Some US analysts think that the Yongbyon facilities are still at the core of the whole North Korean nuclear system, while other experts believe they are “obsolete” and, hence, Kim’s offer is not particularly interesting.
Nevertheless, if there is nothing else besides the “obsolete” facilities, Kim Jong Un’s offer is meaningful and rational.
At the beginning of Hanoi talks, North Korea hoped that economic sanctions would soon be partly lifted, considering that all the UN Security Council Resolutions on the North Korean issue stated that it would be possible to re-examine the sanctions in exchange for clear progress on the nuclear issue.
North Korea, however, has already imposed a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests. It has also closed its nuclear test sites and has even started to destroy its missile test sites.
North Korea has even accepted a slow and progressive lifting of sanctions, in exchange for a step-by-step check of nuclear compliance.
From this viewpoint, the United States thought that sanctions really benefited it and hence they did not try to reduce them. Quite the reverse.
The United States must have thought that the more sanctions remain, the more North Korea is forced to negotiate.
Moreover, the Russian and Chinese proposals on the subject, developed within the UN Security Council, have always been blocked by the US contrary vote.
John Bolton’s and Mike Pompeo’s hard stance, however, was not matched by any immediate negative reactions from the North Korean side, as is customary in North Korea’s diplomacy. Nevertheless, three weeks after the crisis of Hanoi’s talks, the North Korean deputy-Foreign Minister, Choe Son-Hui, who enjoys Kim’s full confidence, said that his country “is not particularly interested in the current negotiations with the United States for denuclearization”.
Later, after the unexpected end of talks in Hanoi, the United States launched a defamation campaign against North Korea claiming, for example, that North Korea was secretly continuing its missile tests and that this new fact had stopped the US efforts at the negotiating table.
It is hard to understand how nuclear tests can be stopped “secretly”.
North Korea, however, has never promised to stop anything else but missile tests alone.
Hence, neither the uranium enrichment program nor the other biological and chemical activities have rightly ceased.
Currently, however, the door of negotiations still remains half-open.
Again in March, the pictures of the Sohae site, which is used for launching satellites, showed a significant pace of facilities’ reconstruction.
In all likelihood, despite Kim Jong Un’s promise to dismantle the site soon, North Korea still plans to keep and develop it, with a view to maintaining also some diplomatic pressure on the United States, but above all to organizing a new round of talks in the future.
The next important events will be the meeting between Donald J. Trump and the South Korean leader – already scheduled for April 11 – designed to break the ice between North and South Korea on the denuclearization issue and, on April 15, the North Korea’s great celebrations for the 107thbirth anniversary of Kim Il Sung, namely the “Day of the Sun”.
As some US analysts claim, should we go back to the strict and effective style of the old Six Party Talks?
Instead of a team that – at least in the US case – knows the complex issue of relations between the United States and North Korea only superficially, a new negotiation would be useful, with a traditional preliminary document and clear purposes.
A new negotiation that – as was the case with the Six Party Talks – makes the North Korean deputy-Foreign Minister and the deputy-Secretary of State, as well as many US experts of the academic and intelligence worlds sit around the negotiating table.
Certainly, we need to imagine that the negotiation is and will be long and complex.
Simple negotiations are those that do not succeed in reaching the goal.
Hence it will be useful to imagine multiple and different trade-off and mutual satisfaction factors, compared to a harsh and brutal negotiation on nuclear potential alone.
Kim Jong-Un knows all too well that what is at stake here is the future of his country, not only nuclear and bacteriological-chemical disarmament.
His nuclear and bacteriological-chemical network has led North Korea to be a member of the world decision-making system.
If this happens even in a shift from the nuclear threat to a major economic role, Kim Jong-Un will have won his bet.
If this does not happen, the United States shall not believe that North Korea will consume itself on its own. Quite the reverse.
In any case, it will be necessary to clarify that, as usual, the North Korean issue cannot be resolved with a mere bilateral negotiation mechanism.
The North Korean strategic role is a vital problem for Japan, for South Korea, but also for China and the Russian Federation.
Without a project that is good for all these actors, and not only for the United States, no peace nor disarmament will be possible. Not even for the United States alone.
China does not certainly want a nuclear, bacteriological and chemical system on its border that is, however, completely out of its control.
This is the real reason for the initial tensions between Kim Jong-Un and Xi Jinping.
Any increase in military tension in North Korea also spreads suspicions in China.
Nevertheless, it is a factor that the United States – in agreement with China – could use to reach North Korea’s denuclearization.
In particular, however, China wants neither a new war on the Korean peninsula – an interest obviously shared with South Korea – nor the US Armed Forces on its border, if North Korea’s complete nuclear demilitarization is achieved.
And if the United States and South Korea are still able to quickly reach the nuclear threshold in an initially conventional conflict with North Korea.
Hence, for China, high conventional and credible militarization for North Korea, but also with a non-negligible anti-US nuclear deterrent, albeit certainly not capable of setting fire to the whole Southeast Asia.
The same strategic paradigm largely applies to the Russian Federation.
It is not in favour of a demilitarized North Korea, which would be easy prey to the US-South Korea axis, and would not serve as a military buffer for Russia. However, it is even against a North Korea capable of threatening South Korea, and hence even the countries on its Northern border.
Therefore, considering the scenario of the negotiations between North Korea and the United States, the current stalemate will serve – after the Hanoi talks – to select the rational requests of the two actors and to shape the possible responses.
For example, the spreading of nuclear technology from North Korea to other States is a new topic to be included in the negotiation agenda.
As well as the decrease in conventional North Korean forces, to be linked to a rational decrease in the US and South Korean Armed Forces.
The five sanctions that North Korea wants to be lifted concern only the civilian economy and the well-being of the North Korean people, while we need to note that also Kim Jong-Un is put under pressure by the North Korean people and, even more, by his ruling class.
The North Korean Foreign Minister, Ri Yong Ho, said so explicitly: in fact, he has clarified that the North Korean power is aimed – in a rational negotiation – “at the complete dismantling of the Yongbyon site”.
Ri Yong Ho also added that the dismantling of Yongbyon facilities would take place “with the presence of US experts”.
Clearly Kim Jong Un has now China’s full protection.
Certainly China does not want to have the huge mass of migrants from North Korea within its borders and, above all, is not interested in a “sister” country which, besides threatening the United States and South Korea, forces even the great China to follow its policy.
This could lead the North Korean leadership to seek economic compensation at any time of the denuclearization talks.
Hence will the US leadership be able to finalise negotiations with North Korea without too many mistakes and wrong moves?
Will the US leadership be capable of actively involving China, Japan, Russia and South Korea in a radical dismantling of the North Korean nuclear capacity?
We do not know it yet.
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Economic reform in the Gulf: Who benefits, really?
For Gulf leaders, long-overdue economic reforms were never going to be easy. Leaders like the crown princes of Saudi Arabia...
China needs further reforms to make growth sustainable, greener and more inclusive
The Chinese economy continues to slow as it rebalances, with headwinds including trade frictions and the weakening global economy undermining...
ADB Releases Annual Report, Financial Results for 2018
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) released its Annual Report for 2018 today. The report presents ADB’s important operational and organizational...
The Rabidly Hypocritical EU
Unlike America under Donald Trump, who is proudly psychopathic and went so far as to blurt out that his followers...
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