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The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and denuclearization talks

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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The issue of denuclearization of the whole Korean peninsula is currently at the core of the debate between North Korea, South Korea, the United States, China and the Russian Federation.

This has been seen- symbolically, but very clearly – in the very recent military parade in Pyongyang for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In fact, there was not the traditional and strong emphasis on the North Korean nuclear and missile system, but rather a balanced representation of the Armed Forces and the various social components, to which the North Korean Socialist regime entrusts its hegemony in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is a true hegemony, not a constraint.

Whoever wants to destabilize North Korea with the usual talk about liberalism would be in serious trouble.

Let us also consider the symbolism of the representation of cadres and relevant figures of the regime around Kim Jong-Un on the stage.

There was a large number of representatives who had participated in many events, while the very few newcomers were mingled with Kim Jong-Un’s usual aides and collaborators.

A clear sign that the Leader has full control on his power apparatus in the most delicate phase of negotiations with South Korea and the United States.

As someone within the US security apparatus said, whoever wants to destabilize North Korea with a “liberal” conspiracy and palace coup would fail.

The Special Forces played a special, symbolic – and hence fully political – role in the parade for the 70th anniversary. They are the largest Special Forces in the world.

“Kim’s tigers” had the specific mission of strictly controlling the US and South Korean positions in the Southern part of the peninsula. They count approximately 180,000 soldiers – a very significant number for a small country like North Korea.

They also wear a uniform very similar to that of the South Korean 707thSpecial Mission Battalion, created immediately after the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. The North Korean Special Forces, however, operate both in the field of Recognition, with a specific brigade, and in the maritime field. They also operate as light artillery units in the rear and, as can be easily imagined, they are all trained to carry out the tasks and functions of airborne forces.

“Kim’s tigers” performed legendary operations, such as in 1968 in South Korea, with the attempt to assassinate the South Korean dictator, Park Chung-Hee, made by the 124th Unit of the North Korean Army.

Kim Jong-Un’s Special Forces are present also in Bashar al-Assad’ Syrian Arab Republic to update missile defences.

This happens above all in relation to the Russian refusal to equip the Syrian armed forces with medium and long-range missiles. In Syria, however, Kim Jong-Un’s forces are carrying out various missions which, in all likelihood, currently make them the best Asian force in the counter-terrorist sector.

With specific reference to health, Assad has sometimes officially thanked North Korea for its support to Syria in this sector, while there are still North Korean artillery troops active in Syria.

Moreover, Western data and statistics show us that currently the total number of North Korean military staff is 6,445,000, with a share of 945,000 active soldiers and officers and 5,500,000 reservists.

Hence a nation-in-arms, which is almost impossible to conquer for outsiders.

According to the data collected by Western countries’ intelligence services, we know that North Korea is supposed to have 994 military aircraft of various type, with 458 combat aircraft and 516 attack aircraft, with additional 119 transport aircraft, 169 training aircraft and 202 helicopters, of which 20 for attack purposes.

Currently the North Korean Land Forces have 5,243 tanks available, as well as 9,935 armored vehicles and 2,250 artillery units, while the heavy artillery positions are still 4,300 with as many as 5,000 missile launchers of various range and power.

North Korea’s Navy ships are 967, with only 10 frigates, 2 corvettes, but with 86 submarines, 438 patrol boats and 25 minesweepers. The rest is unknown to Western intelligence services.

At the parade for the 70th anniversary, however, there were also various groups of civilians, many portraits of Kim Il Sung, defined as the “founder of the Socialist Chosun” (Chosun is Korea itself, understood as homeland) while there were many posters praising the Chosun Juche, i.e. self-reliance of the North Korean Nation precisely through the concept of Juche. According to Kim Il-Sung, Juche means that “man is the master of everything because he is the master of the world and of history”.

Hence North Korea’s full self-determination is theorized, without entrusting sovereignty or economic support to “third” powers, even if they belong to the “Socialist camp”.

Hence the official division of the North Korean people – although made homogeneous and united by the Socialist ideology – into peasants, industrial workers and samuwon, that in the West we would call “intellectuals”. Three groups equally necessary for the development of societies.

It should be recalled that in no Communist theory derived from the Third International there is a specific social role for “intellectuals”.

A significant part of the parade celebrating the 70th anniversary was also dedicated to another pillar of the North Korean ideology, i.e. the profound unity between civilians and soldiers.

“Socialism, one big family”, another of the typical slogans of the parade for the 70th anniversary.

According to North Korea’s traditional symbolism, in this “big family” the Leader is the Father, the Party is the Mother and the citizens are the children.

Well beyond family symbolism, this is the symbolic start of the parallel transformation of the North Korean economy and military system. It is worth reiterating that the massive presence of the Special Forces is a sign not to be neglected at all.

References to the history of the 1950s and the beginning of the North Korean regime were very present in the parade for the 70thanniversary, but also mythical references to the horses Chollima and Mallima.

The former is a winged horse, a symbol commonly portrayed in all Asian mythologies (and in those of Greece communicating and having contacts with Central Asia), but here it clearly epitomizes North Korea’s necessary rapidity of economic development, which will be Kim Jong-Un’s real future goal.

The latter is another winged horse originating from the Chinese and Japanese traditions – another very clear symbol.

Here the iconographic quote reiterates a specific remark made by Kim Jong-Un in his recent New Year’s speech on January 5th.

In fact, the reference was to the total modernization of the national economy and to the complete mechanization of agriculture, by mentioning precisely the two winged horses as symbols of the speed with which North Korea is currently undertaking its path of full civilian and military modernization.

The symbolic wagons of the parade for the 70th anniversary included also the silhouettes of ships bearing the following inscription on their sides: “sound foundations for building economic power” and “for a flexible manufacturing system”.

What does this mean? That Kim Jong-Un wants to trigger a self-propelled development of North Korea to balance military and economic power. His initial project, which is currently expressed with the slogan “economy first”.

This does not mean that North Korea relinquishes its military networks, but that it makes them useful for a negotiation projecting North Korea directly into the Third Millennium.

In fact, again at symbolic level, which is always one of the essential aspects of politics, we must not let us be deceived by the economicist myth characterizing much of Western political culture. We must note that during the parade the most welcome guest, the central figure of the relationship between North Korea and the rest of the world, was the envoy Li Zhanshu, representing the Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Li is the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the top legislative body of the People’s Republic of China.

Formerly Governor of Heilongjiang, a region in the forefront of Chinese economic innovation and of the proactive relationship with foreign companies, in the recent 18th Congress Li Zhanshu has become one of Xi Jinping’s most trusted advisers, in addition to being Head of the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

He is also a full member of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

Hence a figure of considerable importance, with strong personal ties with Xi Jinping, who was chosen to represent not only China, but the lasting strength of the relations that still bind China and North Korea.

Li and Kim Jong-Un often greeted the crowd together, with joined hands.

One of the aspects to be noted in this new configuration of the North Korean political system is Kim Jong-Un’s recent nuclear doctrine.

The North Korean Leader said that, with a view to avoiding the tragedy and horror of nuclear war, North and South Korea should increase their attempts to reach the goal of a Korean peninsula free of all kinds of nuclear weapons.

In July 2017, Kim Jong-Un had said that North Korea would never withdraw its nuclear armament if the United States did not clearly put an end to its hostile policy and its nuclear threat to North Korea.

The change in tone is evident and is in line with the joint declaration between North Korea and the United States at the Panmunjom Conference of 27 April 2018, when North Korea itself agreed to “work for the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”.

In the Singapore Declaration of June 2018, North Korea did not set a time schedule for reaching said goal, but accepted the process of the peninsula’s complete denuclearization.

Finally, with his latest statements, Kim Jong-Un wants to accept the US policy line, the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but, in any case, on his terms and conditions and, above all, according to his time schedule.

This means that for North Korea denuclearization shall take place within a negotiation in which both the North Korean and the South Korean structures are systematically dismantled at the same time and in the same way.

With specific reference to North Korea’s international relations, considering the excellent ties re-established between China and North Korea with Kim Jong-Un’s visit of March 25-28, for the United States the solution will be to agree at first with China and Russia and later with the other friendly Asian countries, such as Japan, South Korea and even Vietnam.

If the United States acts alone, it will reach no results.

Nevertheless, there is a further important issue, i.e. North Korea’s future participation in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.

North Korea has no domestic capital and it will not have it even after a sharp reduction in the military and nuclear system, which, however, it will not make – and rightly so.

It has not even Foreign Direct Investments available that could be used to autonomously enter the world market that is waiting for it.

North Korea, however, has mineral reserves worth at least 6 trillion US dollars, including iron, gold, zinc, copper, molybdenum and graphite. It has also many rare earth metals.

However, in addition to the “Belt and Road” network, there is also the Eurasia Initiative set up by South Korea in October 2013, which integrates South Korea into the Eurasian economic space, through Russia, and also allows cooperation on security, including also North Korea in this framework.

Through the Eurasia Initiative, however, South Korea, North Korea and the scarcely developed North-East Chinese provinces could be integrated economically.

There is also large infrastructure to be started: the railway to the West, the Pusan-Seoul-Shinuju-Dandong, and hence the primary one of the East, the Pusan-Wonsan-Chongjin-Tumangang-Khasan, which are lines connecting the two Koreas and both of them to China and the Russian Federation and, from there, to the European peninsula.

Hence the production formula would be North Korean low-cost manpower, Chinese capital and South Korean technology.

The port of Rason would bring both Koreas into contact with Japan and this would also favour Northeast China’s regional economy, with the further expansion of the Russian energy networks throughout this new region.

Hence all this concerns the parallel and quick denuclearization of the US network in South Korea and in North Korea.

Without the agreement between China, Russia, the United States and Japan, the new economic network would be meaningless and useless. And here the ball is still in the US hands.

Denuclearization is an operation to be carried out with absolute guarantees for all parties, as well as with the support of IAEA, but also, and above all, of neighbouring countries.

In fact, a joint Commission between the United States, North Korea, South Korea, Russia and China would be useful to check and step up the denuclearization of the whole Korean peninsula.

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 “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. 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 “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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East Asia

Diplomatic Maneuvers for China-US trade war: December 2018 agreement

Bassem Elmaghraby

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On the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 1st 2018 the US President Donald Trump and the Chinese President Xi Jinping concluded a conditional trade agreement, according to which Beijing has to reduce its current trade surplus with the US by increasing Chinese purchases of soybeans, natural gas, commercial aircraft and some other US industrial goods. In contrast, Washington will maintain the tariff rate on Chinese exports to US of US$200 billion at 10 percent, instead of increasing it to 25 percent, which was due to come into force on Jan 1st 2019.

Although some commentators, politicians, or scholars over-optimistically described that deal as the end of the trade war, or at least a first step, between the two countries, including President Trump himself; but in fact by analyzing the reasons behind the two countries’ decision to conclude such agreement and whether this agreement paves the way for a final trade agreement or not, and what obstacles may stand in the way of reaching a final trade agreement between the two countries, it seems more likely to be a beneficial truce or a diplomatic solution to gain more time, calming the growing escalation of the trade war and to control its affiliated losses from both sides. Accordingly, the first question that may come in mind is how the future trade relations could be between the two countries?

The coming sections attempt to answer these questions by explaining the reasons behind conducting such agreement for the two sides, the main barriers or obstacles that may prevent reaching a commercial peace between the two countries, and the prospected future of US-China trade relations based on these factors as following:

Why to conclude such agreement?

Based on the rational choice approach, the simple answer of this question is that such agreement is beneficial for both of them; and in fact it is also beneficial for all the international economy, at least to stop the continued losses of both countries.

For the United States

In order to control the losses of the American economy since the beginning of the trade war, where the indicators of the American stock markets declined sharply during October and November 2018; large losses suffered by the American farmers because of China’s imports reduction of agricultural products and soybeans in particular, where 60 percent of its total US production were importing by Beijing; and the costs of the US Department of Agriculture increased for providing almostUS$12 billion as aid to farmers and breeders affected by the trade war.

Seek to improve the trade balance with China, where the Chinese trade surplus have been increased to $293.5 billion from January to November 2018, comparing with $251.3 billion in the same period previous year; combined with increase the Chinese exports to the US by 9.8% annually since November 2018, While imports fell by 25% during the same month.

In addition, to avoid any further economic damages or losses that may occur because of the continued escalation of the trade war between the two countries whether to the American or the international economy, Moreover, to face the internal pressure of his strong opposition, and for the re-election considerations.

The agreement came shortly after the G20 industrialized nations backed an overhaul of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which regulates international trade disputes, giving a symbolic victory for Trump administration, a sharp critic of the organization.

For China

To reduce the negative impact of the trade war, where the Chinese economy suffered from a decline in the economic growth rate during the third quarter of 2018,the defaults in the payment of corporate bond yields, and the decline in property prices; in addition to the devaluation of the Chinese currency since May 2018 by more than 8%, Which is warning to slow the economic growth to 6.3 percent next year compared to the current growth rate of 6.5 percent.

To avoid increasing US tariffs that would undermine China’s economic growth prospects, and increase pressure on its financial markets.

In addition to maintain the stability of the international economy, in order to avoid any negative effects on the Chinese economic ambitions such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) whether directly or indirectly.

– Based on the abovementioned reasons it seems clear that such agreement is a beneficial for both sides to gain more time and prepare themselves for a second round of the trade war, or at least to stop the terrible consequences of the trade war escalation.

Obstacles of a commercial peace between the two countries

There are many obstacles or barriers that prevent a long-term commercial peace between China and the US such as:

The low level of trust between the two countries because of many of the thorny issues among them such as addressing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protection, the synthetic opioid fentanyl being sent from China to the United States, non-tariff barriers, cybercrimes, cyber-security, services and agriculture; and especially after the United States accuses Beijing of forcing American and foreign companies in general to disclose trade secrets versus access to the Chinese market.

The different understanding of the agreement by the two sides and the lack of clear future trade talks between them are also stumbling blocks in commercial peace way; while president Trump pledged to freeze tariffs in exchange for China’s commitment to reduce bilateral trade deficit with the US, but it is still unclear what exactly Beijing proposed; where the reports published by China’s state-owned media completely deny Beijing’s commitment to reduce the trade deficit with the US. In addition, whether China can reduce its tariffs on the American products, also the quantities and timing to resume its purchases of American goods are not clear. In addition to tariffs on Chinese goods, Trump has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into the United States this year. Numerous countries have filed litigation at the WTO to contest the levies.

Arresting the chief financial director of Huawei Communications Technology in Canada (the daughter of Huawei’s founder, the second largest smart phone company in the world)on December 1st 2018 (the same day as the agreement was concluded); and the American requests to extradition on charges of posing a threat to US national security arguing that the technology it uses can be used by the Chinese government for espionage. Additionally, the US companies were banned from exporting to the Chinese telecommunications company ZT earlier 2018 due to Iranian sanctions had been violated. Accordingly, the Chinese Vice Foreign Ministry has summoned the US Ambassador to China on Dec. 9 in a protest over the arrest. There is no doubt that this issue will affect the scheduled talks between the two countries; While the Trump administration insists that it will not affect the ongoing trade talks, Beijing believes that it is just an American attempt to contain China’s technological ambitions. In response, Beijing may have to take some measures to calm the mounting public anger, bearing in mind that a Chinese court decision to ban the sale and import of most iPhone models on Dec 10.

The fact that the competition between the two countries is much farther than the limits of the trade warand trade is one aspect of this competition, where from the Communist Party of China’s perspective the United States seeks to bring about comprehensive changes may reach the extent of changing the Chinese political system, and obstacle the Chinese economic and political aspirations.

Indeed there are many indications that the Trump administration consider the issue as much greater than a trade war by aiming to contain or undermine China’s rise in the world and maintain the American economic and political hegemony over the world for instance the US national security strategy and Trump hint to withdraw from the Nuclear Weapons Agreement, the declaration of the free and open Indo-Pacific economic zone, and the American opposition to BRI as well as the Made in China 2025’splan. In addition, the adoption of the America First policy gives the impression that the United States is seeking concessions, not to improve trade relations, but to maintain American hegemony. Furthermore, the historical experience proves that the American perspective in dealing with the international issues mostly characterized by realism features, where as soon as it considered any state as their rival the caution will prevail on their relations and keeps working and set strategies to win the zero-sum game with this state.

The narrow timeframe of the agreement, which lasts for no more than 90 days for further talks with the aim of structural changes on some thorny and complex issues, therefore, it is difficult to resolve this long list of issues in that short timeframe.

Furthermore, the two countries are also at odds over some other issues such as the China’s extensive claims in the South China Sea and U.S. warship movements through the highly sensitive Taiwan Strait.

Future of US-China Trade Relations

Whether the two countries could reach a commercial peace or not is depending heavily on their ability to overcome the above challenges and the real willingness of both sides to take concrete steps to end their trade war.

From one side, there are some steps or measures from the both sides to contain and avoid the escalation of trade war such as President Xi’s agree to designate fentanyl a controlled substance during the meeting, the Chinese announcement to slash on US-made autos from 40 percent to 15 percent in an attempt to show its willingness to calm the tension with Washington.

In the same context, whether the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) scheduled for March 2019 may lead to substantial changes to China’s economic policy will be a decisive factor in determining the future of the US-China trade war. On the other hand, the announcement of President Trump on December 11 that he may intervene in the Justice Department’s case against the chief financial director of Huawei if it would be in the interest of U.S. national security and help forge a trade deal with China, gives an impression that both sides have a desire not to escalate the trade war or at least express their fearing about the consequences of this escalation.

From another perspective, it’s arguable that the US-China trade agreement is very similar to the agreement between Washington and the European Union in July 2018, which included strengthen the free trade measures and the announcement of more European purchases of the American agricultural products. But the agreement is in danger of collapse, with President Trump threatening once again to impose a 20 percent tariff on all cars and spare parts imported from the EU. The same scenario is possible with China as long as it serve the American interests, especially with the lack of a final agreement on what Washington considers as unfair trade practices by China in the areas of cyber espionage, piracy and intellectual property rights violations. With bearing in mind that the White House said talks would take place to resolve within the next 90 days specific US complaints such as forced technology transfer, or else existing 10 percent tariffs would go up to 25 per cent.

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New Era of China – India Relations

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Modi’s informal visit to Wuhan china as a indication of Sino – Indian rapprochement reason being both are world important engines of economic growth, economic globalization and making positive contribution toward peace and development .Regardless of Wuhan’s outcomes, India remains wary of China’s deepening regional influence, primarily through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which Xi sees as not only a vehicle to deepen China’s clout but as holding domestic value in showcasing his country’s emergence. China also convincing India that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is economic cooperation and does not influence China’s impartiality.

China and India recently locked horns on Dokalam issue, a 72 days military standoff was the result of the accretion of mistrust between the two countries. Modi and XI emphasized the need for greater cooperation and encourage CBMs to this reason because its conducive for development of the people and as well as the region. In Wuhan informal summit both leaders agreed to undertake joint economic and developmental projects in war-torn Afghanistan which is in the backyard of china and India. Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale who is considering to be the architect of Sino – Indian rapprochement commented during the press briefing that the issue of Masood Azhar who is the chief of jaish e Mohammed also raised with President XI because china has repeatedly blocked India’s bid to designate Masood Azhar as global terrorist in the UN.Similarly, India’s membership bid to the Nuclear Suppliers Group was also opposed by China reason being India is not a signatory to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty or the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty also comes under discussion between two leaders.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is an excellent example of this “incremental approach.” The AIIB was newly initiated by China in 2015, but India has not only gained significant political capitals in the field of international finance by becoming the bank’s second-largest shareholder, but also has harvested considerable economic benefits as its largest loans recipient. As India has become an important member of the groupings China has major stakes in – the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS and the AIIB –  such a multilaterally beneficial “pare to improvement” may well be attained through long-term strategic collaboration and deft diplomacy.

Furthermore, theoretical analysis of this bilateral relationship of China -India make for captivating case study due to strategic complexity, a complex web of interests ranging from tough stands on the unmarked boundaries issue to recognition of Tibet by India as part of China; with quest for energy resources to increasing bilateral trade; from perceptions of encirclement to increased cooperation on international forums and the different domestic political systems. Today China and India are the largest trading partners, with trade touching $88 billion; and target is $100 billion in 2018. Pragmatists add another dimension and said that prospects of china-India relations are not a case of conflict or cooperation, but conflict and cooperation.

On the one hand two countries “agreed to jointly contribute in a positive and constructive way in facilitating sustainable solutions for global challenges including climate change, sustainable development, food security etc. On the other hand, agreed that as major emerging economies, India and China, given their vast developmental experiences and national capacities, should join hands to take lead in offering innovative and sustainable solutions to challenges faced by humankind in the 21st century. These include combating diseases, coordinating action for disaster risk reduction and mitigation, addressing climate change and ushering digital empowerment.” On the same subject, the Chinese government communique says the two countries “agree to join hands in offering innovative and sustainable solutions to global challenges such as epidemics, natural disasters, climate change and terrorism.”

Geopolitics of Sino Indian relations marked by different strategies, Chinese cooperation with Pakistan, India’s look east policy, quest for influence in Indian ocean, china’s string of pearls strategy, south china sea, despite all this Sino- Indian cooperation paving the way from unipolarity to multipolarity. Both are the world ‘s two most populated countries. They have constant the world ‘s highest annual GDP growth rates over the past decade of9 % for China and 6 or 7 % for India. The two countries have been among the world ‘s most successful in surviving the challenges of world Recession since 2008.“It is a good start. More joint projects should be in their shared neighborhood such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and other ASEAN countries. Africa is also a region of full of possibilities,” said Lili, south Asian scholar at the Institute for International Relations at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

For that reason experts say China and India can’t afford to compromise their economic ties, regardless of conflict.”China has achieved remarkable economic progress in the past five decades, which provides valuable lessons to India’s development. And China’s inclusive and responsible attitude towards globalization for the economic reform (and opening) attracts India’s attention and gives them more confidence,” said Liu Chunsheng with Central University of Finance and Economics.

To be conclude, the territorial dispute, regional geopolitics, and economic competition, catalyzed by misperceptions, will ensure that Sino-India relations will remain competitive in nature. However, the high cost of war, growing economic interaction, and the imperative for peaceful economic development will also help keep the level and nature of competition to a pragmatic level.

A ground-breaking joint Sino-Indian economic project in Afghanistan will send the signal that cooperation can prevail over competition and a message to Pakistan that China recognizes India’s legitimate role in Afghanistan, say strategic experts.

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South Korea’s new national security strategy: Priorities and nuances

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On December 20, South Korea’s presidential Blue House unveiled a new national security strategy – a “top-level” national security and defense policy document, which also pertains to President Moon Jae-in’s policy of reuniting with the North. Such documents are normally drawn up once every five years, but the current version appeared a year earlier due to the “significant changes” in the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

What is important here, however, is just to what extent Seoul’s new strategy reflects the undoubtedly positive changes that have recently been happening in relations between the two countries. The new strategy prioritizes a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear problem, the establishment of a lasting peace on the divided peninsula, promotion of peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia, strengthening South Korea’s defense capability through “a responsible defense policy,” and efforts to pursue “balanced diplomacy of cooperation.”

In the preamble to the document, President Moon says that from now on South Korea will be pursuing a more active policy in the field of “security that ensures peace.” This is a clear sign of Seoul’s desire to solidify its role in the process of inter-Korean dialogue and the US-North Korean denuclearization talks.

But, as we all know well, the devil is in the details. Even though a full version of the strategy paper has not yet been released to the public, it contains nuances that are new and, therefore, merit our attention. For one, it says that while the issue of a formal end to the war on the Korean Peninsula will be resolved during the early stages of North Korea’s nuclear disarmament, Seoul will sign a peace treaty only after the process of North Korean denuclearization has been completed.

Well, this clearly reflects the tough negotiating position of Washington, while Pyongyang insists on a phased denuclearization based on reciprocal and proportionate concessions and, above all, on security guarantees.

What Pyongyang is holding out for is a peace treaty. Seoul, for its part, will apparently be ready to propose signing a Declaration on ending the war during the early stages of negotiations, and promise Pyongyang a full-fledged peace treaty only after North Korea has fully denuclearized.

Simultaneously with release of the new national security strategy, the South Korean Foreign Ministry announced a reform of its organizational structure and the planned creation of a separate department to deal exclusively with relations with China. Until now, the US was the only country to enjoy the privilege of having such a “personal” department there. This is a clear sign of China’s growing importance to South Korea.

According to the newspaper Korea Times citing Foreign Ministry sources in Seoul, the new “Chinese” department will oversee the entire range of issues pertaining to relations with Beijing – from military-political to trade.

During recent informal meetings with Russian experts, South Korean Foreign Ministry officials said that the creation of a “Russian department” at the Ministry was almost a done deal now. This never happened though, and it is most likely that overseeing relations with Russia will be a newly created department for Eurasian countries, to also include the Mongolia-affairs desk that was previously part of the North Asia department.

The Japan-affairs department will, likewise, be reassigned to another division that will also include the India and Australia departments. This apparently means that Seoul wants to give priority attention to the “Indo-Pacific Partnership” being put together by the United States that the abovementioned countries are part of.

Getting back to President Moon Jae-in’s national security strategy, Seoul is apparently request additional exemptions from Washington’s sanctions against North Korea in a bid to build up economic cooperation with Pyongyang, including in the implementation of infrastructure projects (just a day before Seoul unveiled its new national security strategy, the UN Security Council authorized the reunification of the trans-Korean railway). Seoul has also made clear its intention to send $8 million worth of humanitarian assistance, above all food, to North Korea.

The prospects of expanding economic cooperation between North and South Koreas ahead of the second US-North Korean summit were high on the agenda of a recent meeting between South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, and the US Special Envoy for North Korea, Stephen Bigan.

Seoul’s new national security strategy reflects the growing role it has been playing in the efforts to resolve the situation around the Korean Peninsula and its desire to make sure that this process is irreversible. To make this happen, South Korea needs to walk a delicate line of “balancing” the interests of Washington and Beijing.

Therefore, Russia’s bigger presence in the region will be conducive to normalizing the situation and will strengthen this country’s positions on the Korean Peninsula.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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