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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

The West, Sinophobia and Cooperation

Irfan Khan

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Interestingly, populace they are inhabitant of whether West or East pole share having almost common issues like weak productivity growth, proliferation of sophisticated war weapons and climate dangers; however, except for a few issues which, in particular, people of West considers most panic and hazardous. Policy-makers of the West are indulging themselves with a narrative that China’s rise would threaten capitalist economic model and the very survival of the West liberal democracy. Is it so?

Not at all. What must be ponder here is the fact that international capitalists model has stopped functioning, which have witnessed 2008 financial crisis. The leading investors and tycoons, unfortunately, have not been maintaining a steady balance between profitability and investments: profits are becoming increasing while no apparent increase in investments has been recording. Its consequential effects are lowering trends in productivity across the globe; which, in response, has been adversely affecting the prosperity of people across the globe. Establishment and corporate-based politics put the nations in a competition with each-other, that affect masses; as it is underpinned by observing myriad portion of budgets are going into military weapons.

British colonial hegemony culture, and US-led conflicts since last few decades, morphed world into most devastating state, perhaps. In this scenario, China’s rise seeds a hope to the indigent and penurious economies, which the West is fury of.

The current dispute between the US and China in terms of trade and technology, and if European take side, would morphed to a more dramatic state; where the health of the global economy will likely to be damaged. It is safe to say and notwithstanding predictable that this  trade would be converted to a new hottest-cold war, which may force the emerging multipolar world to split into financial bipolar form.

How long will this bubble not burst? It will be likely to head the world towards a global conflict.

However, here’s one good news or perhaps token. West-Policy makers, instead of spreading Sinophobia, should assure that they can be living comfortably with China. It is because, so far so good, China has been depicting a cooperation and advancement, irrespective of humanity, ethnicity and religion. What’s more the West propaganda that China is appearing as geopolitical actor is equivocal; because it never influences and impose their culture on any nation.

Embracing a different economic model, China, is plausibly on a runner-up position to the US and experts claimed it will surpass the USin the next decade. Whether it’s 5G tech. Or leading status of green energy, or ultra-scales exports or its leading developments for the nations having indigent economies are hallmark achievements in recent history. The US and the West should, I propose, consider China’s rise a piece of cake, and welcome its come out while securing its interests under the umbrella of cooperation. This logic, while posing no threat, seems to be long term functional.

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Beyond China-U.S. trade and where is its outlet?

Wang Li

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Since China-U.S. trade war started in the Mid-2018, it has lasted for more than 14 months. From the beginning, the World Bank and the IMF have taken the position that the trade conflict America has trigged will serve no country’s economic progress and their action is patently wrong. Since then, China has at several occasions showed its good-will and sincerity including purchase of the products from the U.S. and the consensus reached between the two heads of state at the summits in Argentina and Japan, during which both parties agreed to move towards dropping all of the additional tariffs introduced during the dispute, and reach a comprehensive agreement that is fair and beneficial to the two sides. Yet, there is still no insurance of the end of trade war between the two largest economies of the world.

Now comes a new possibility that from October 10-11, a senior trade delegation from China, headed by Vice Premier Liu He, is scheduled to meet their American counterparts in Washington DC, led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Yet, the trade talks also come at a precarious time in Trump’s decision to reduce the number of U.S. forces in the Syrian border areas with Turkey and amid a spiraling impeachment inquiry into his interactions with Ukraine. More than that, the White House has repeatedly used national security as a reason to sanction Chinese companies, and this has been a talking point in U.S. presidential campaign speeches.

As a matter of fact, the Sino-American rivalry, like the German-Britain rivalry one century ago, is as much a clash of two major powers as it is of two systems: the authoritarian and state-protected development of a rising power vs. the liberal, free-market constitutionalism of a ruling power. Therefore, differences in economic system inevitably amplified the salience of the narrowing economic gap, leading the ruling power to feel cheated and the rising power to feel unsatisfied and threatened. By taking the current China-U.S. trade war into consideration, several factors are complicating the upcoming round of talks.

First, the American resentments against the Chinese economy have grown and seemed to be systematic steps to decouple the world’s two largest economies. As American scholar James Rae argued that with a series of steps, ranging from the tariff rollout to restrictions on dealings with major Chinese technology firms and “ordering” American companies to move production out of China, the U.S. has signaled that this is a trade war, indeed a confrontation over the fundamentals of two rival economic models involving at least four economic tools—standard-setting, technology acquisition, financial power, and infrastructure investment.

Second, the U.S. argues that the Chinese story historically resembles the German one in an overall sense and these parallels are not entirely coincidental. China has long admired the German export-led growth model and is skeptical of laissez faire capitalism. The founding statesman of unified Germany has been consistently seen as an icon of a modernized and powerful country since China has taken its own modernization in the later 19th century. Even it is held, though groundless, that after China emerged from the civil turbulence in 1979, it supposedly structured its development banks on the German model, though it supplemented their loans with Western capital. Under state-directed development, China eventually emerged as the world’s largest exporter with enormous market share in the United States, similarly creating economic interdependence while inadvertently laying the foundation for political competition. This is one of the sources of the Thucydides trap” occurred in the United States but rejected by China and in particular President Xi Jin-ping.

In addition, as a result of these strategies, the speed of the catchup is equally alarming to American elites now. For instance, China’s GDP was only 25% of U.S. GDP in 1990 after a decade of reforms, but has since approached American GDP in 2018. On the one hand, China, like previous Germany, is perceived to have undergone a radical and alarming economic modernization that catapulted it into the rank of first-rate power in mere decades. On the other hand, the United States, following the British mentality of the day, holds that the Chinese developmental model is a form of cheating, forced technology transfer and manipulation in finance. In light of this, China has paten reasons to be concerned that the United States has sought to halt its peaceful rise and undermine its economics by restricting trade, technology and capital flows—whether through economic means or direct subversion.

Yet, Trump’s instinct to do something is not entirely unwelcome, and some of his administration’s policies may prove promising. For example, bipartisan legislation like the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act presents an instrument to deal with China’s state-backed purchases of Western intellectual property that is somewhat more surgical than blunt U.S. tariffs. Other challenges, including China’s forced technology transfers, non-tariff barriers, and subsidies to state champions remain, and although they violate WTO rules. It seems to testify some people’s growing concerns that the economic escalation is now moving the trade dispute into the political realm, from where it had formerly been immune. First, the U.S. has already used the dubious frame of national security to make rhetorical demands as well as launch new policy initiatives to punish the Chinese firms. Second, even the issue of human rights has been inserted into the equation as the U.S. has released an export blacklist of companies with business in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Also while President Trump has been quiet enough on the riots in Hong Kong, a commentary on the topic by the Houston NBA franchise has ironically started a new row that could have major implications for the broader relationship. As Rae observed, the consequence is that debating social issues is easily a slippery slope and the intrusion of trade into China’s domestic affairs even crosses highly sensitive issues related to China’s core national interests and sovereignty. It is true that once those red lines are crossed, unraveling a pathway back will be enormously complicated.

It is understandable that China appears more optimistic or even confident in resolving the current trade war. It declared to purchase huge amount of soybeans, pork and other agricultural products from the United States, signaling that such deals will be exempt from additional tariffs imposed on U.S. goods. This is another gesture of goodwill from the Chinese side to further demonstrate its sincerity in ending the trade issues between the two sides. In the span of two days, China and the United States are supposedly to take a series of positive steps in preparation for a new round of trade talks scheduled for this talks in Washington D.C. Although China resolutely opposes any escalation in the trade war, it admits that there are no winners in a trade war, and therefore a constant escalation of tariffs is not the road to a solution. Only by adhering to the principles of equality and mutual respect, and by negotiating with a calm and rational attitude, can the dispute be defused and differences resolved. To that end, it argues for sincerity, patience and practical action needed. On the eve of the new round of talks, the two sides did have taken actions and created favorable conditions for making substantive progress, in line with the expectations of the international community.

True, as a cliché goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. China has expected a positive result from this round of talks, but the issue is that the United States has already perceived or misperceived China exactly following the path of rising Imperial Germany one century ago. Some observers even hold that Trump’s trade approach is emotionally satisfying but diplomatically disastrous, therefore they fear his confrontational strategy and support a more cooperative economic relationship with China. Yet, in an overall sense, China has been described frequently as a rising power with patent ambition to take advantage of having a state-directed system competing in technology standards, innovation, financial politics, and geo-economics, which force the United States to seek a coordinated response. Given this, that American response should neither be blindly confrontational nor naively cooperative; instead it should be competitive. Sure competition remains the theme of the China-United States relations in the next decades. It is unclear if it takes the scenario of the cold war or the cold peace, but it is clear that the approach America will adopt would be to work with its allies to strengthen rules, set standards, punish Chinese industrial policy and technology theft, invest in research, welcome the world’s best and brightest, and create alternatives to its geo-economic statecraft. It is truly hard to predicate who might be able to play a better hand in this globalized chessboard.

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Five demands, not one less: China’s test of Leadership

Irfan Khan

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There were students, doctors, lawyers, activists; in short people belong to every faction of society, who came out on the streets in a number of tens of thousands in Taipei, Taiwan, marched against “totalitarianism” what they consider China holds in the regime. Yes, it was the recent September 29, Taiwanese citizens packed to the streets for upholding solidarity with Hongkongers.

Plebeian in Hong Kong (HK)—a former British colony—is protesting for the last four months against China authority. The key reason that forced them to do so was China’s authority intervention in the city internal affairs. The episode started since March this year, following an extradition bill issued by the Chief executive of HK on the edict of China. This, however, seems a little to the people outside to HK, but it instead has grim historical facts for Hongkongers. HK-plebeian considered Chief executive of HK—Lam—pro-Beijing, while Mr Xi’s regime as despotic, who has been dreaming unified China. The current legal status of HK is linked to its special status enacted by China-British declaration, 1985. It was this, according to which the city was allotted the status of semi-autonomy with a mini-constitution. While in 1997, HK was taken to handover to China, the administration of China pledged to not intervene in HK internal affairs at least until 1947.

However, China’ s demand from HK’s administration to issue extradition bill for a HK-man who has murdered his girlfriend during visit to Taiwan. HK-plebeian considered it an example of attack by China on its internal system and has now been protesting. At a rally, protestestors contended five demands: the withdrawal of extradition bill, relabeling them as rioters, assurance of universal suffrage to choose chief executive and legislature for the city, and lastly patently investigation for police violence against the demonstrators and activists.

Are there atrocities?

Yes: Various televised recordings shows what has been going on there: They have brutally been shelled, thrown gas, and fired.

China’s view

From the day first, China viewed it the CIA’s plot aiming to stir up people against China Cumminst Party’s rule or a  foreign-led campaign against the regime.

Mark Pinkstone, an Australian journalist with 50 years of experience in Hong Kong, said, “The Basic Law, the constitutional document that supports ‘one country, two systems,’ provides freedoms of expression, speech and religion. Not one of them has been eroded since the handover in 1997. The current demonstrations are living proof of that.”

According to the Human Freedom Index monitored by the Cato Institute, based in Washington  Hong Kong is ranked No 3, trailing only New Zealand and Switzerland. The index ranks 162 countries and autonomous regions based on 79 measures of personal and economic freedom. The US is ranked 17 as measured by the same indicators.

The World Economic Forum published a survey of people from 25 nations who were asked if they thought their own government was heading in the right direction or not. The survey was conducted between October and November of 2016.

China emerged leading the pack, with 90% of its citizens responding that their government was on the right track while only 10% thought not. The US was squarely in the middle, ranked at 13, with 35% of its citizens thinking their government was going in the right direction and 65% disagreeing.

China’s leadership

Once an ideological and internationally solitary state China is now transformed to a most advanced one under the rule of communist party. It made its intriguing appearance on the chessboard of international power, however, still enduring some domestic challenges–HK is one of them. While it claims to work towards various connectivity and cooperation based projects, yet do not have efficacy to let the World its way of leaderships. Its think-tanks are either  do not want to lead or they believe in pragmatic steps rather than bolstering theoretical ideas. Even its media can not counter the west propaganda and what the consequential effects are people around the globe hear much about it from the west. The current HK’s issue is amid the problems which matter more and are the real  tests of China’s leadership.   

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