The primary policy line of the People’s Republic of China, above all at sea level, is to defend its strategic and military interests, but anyway without undermining the trade routes and economic relations between China and its neighbouring countries.
Just think about the Spratly issue, but also about the Chinese position on the ownership and nationality of the Senkaku Islands, as well as about the pressure made on China by India in 2017 to block the road that China had planned and designed on the border with Bhutan.
From this viewpoint, China’s tensions in its neighbouring countries have immediately affected Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.
We should also recall, however, the naval confrontation with the United States in May 2009, especially with the USNS Impeccable and Victorious, for the right to operate in the 200 nautical miles off the Chinese Special Economic Zones.
The United States does not like at all China’s protection of its regional seas, but it will be hard to change China’s mechanism of full protection of its coasts, which partly inhibits the use of old and traditional checkpoints, from Malacca to the Paracel and Ryuku Islands – all areas in which the United States could impose a blockade on the trade and military flows of China’s vessels.
This is still the first goal of China’s regional naval security.
This is one of the primary strategic features of the Belt and Road Initiative, i.e. to get out of the Eastern maritime region and, hence, credibly offset the inevitable imbalance of the Chinese strategic formula on its regional seas with a significant geo-economic presence on Central Asia’s Heartland.
As well as to provide China with a possibility of military (but also geo-economic) countermove capable of blocking the opponent on the sea or, alone, on its land borders.
Therefore the aim pursued by China is its full security and absolute freedom of manoeuvre, within the “first circle” of peripheral islands, but with the possibility of projecting a significant interdiction power beyond this limit.
One of the essential strategic meanings of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative is that, at geo-financial and economic levels, the Chinese leaders are well aware that the global financial crises – the past ones, but also those looming large – make the Chinese economy too vulnerable to global flows.
This is even more severe if you have planned a neo-mercantilist and export-oriented economic development, as the Chinese leaders have done since Deng Xiaoping’s Four Modernizations.
At that time there was no other alternative option.
We also need to consider the tensions in Tibet and Xinjiang, which have also a geo-economic significance.
It should be recalled that in 2000 the Chinese government launched a “Great Development Program for Western Regions” to finally establish a close connection between the land areas of Xinjiang and the Tibet region – which is essential for China’s nuclear defence and intelligence -and the coastal areas’ economic development.
This is also a very useful logical pathway to understand the Belt and Road Initiative well.
Also at military level, which – in the Chinese logic – is closely linked to political decision-making, so far all the 2008 and 2009 “White Papers” of the Chinese Armed Forces have always emphasized the rule of the “three functions and a role”.
It is a rational and operational criterion, which envisages that the Armed Forces should: a) provide the strength to enhance the Party’s leading role, which has always been the first aim of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA); b) provide support to take advantage of this period of great strategic opportunities for China; c) also provide support for the defence of China’s national interests; and, finally, d) play an important role in maintaining world peace and promoting global economic development.
These are not empty words. These are programs.
Reading between the lines, it is said that – beyond the regional seas and networks outside its borders – China will operate in such a way as not to create definitive tensions with its competitors or allies.
Therefore what we need to know is that currently the CPC has the urgent need to define a stable economic development for China.
Thirty years ago the CPC leaders argued – and history has proved them right – that the war between the superpowers would never occur, in line with Mao Zedong’s thinking, whereby imperialism “was a paper tiger”.
A regional, Soviet, Euro-American and partly Middle East paper tiger, in which no one had any interest in firing the first shot.
At the time, however, China was already thinking about Asia, Africa, the “Third World” devoid of “capitalists” or Soviet “revisionists”, left as breeding ground for a new growing great power, which had not been ruined by the crazy Cold War, namely China.
Now – and this is also implicit in the Belt and Road Initiative – the current Chinese leaders obviously think that additional 30 or 40 years of peace and development are needed to enable China to really become a stable and great power.
Hence in terms of current strategic doctrine, so far China has adapted to fight what the Chinese strategists call “a war and a half”. This means that it can and must successfully wage a major war on its own borders, in addition to effectively resisting attacks carried out around other Chinese borders.
We also need to consider the stable Indian garrison of 60,000soldiers in Southern Tibet, in addition to the very recent Quad 2.0 alliance between the United States, India, Japan and Australia, established precisely to counter the Belt and Road Initiative.
In this case, we have the whole range of potentialities and contrasts facing the Belt and Road Initiative.
Obviously it should also be recalled that at least 22% of Japan’s and Australia’s foreign trade currently depends on China. Hence it is very unlikely that regional and military tension will turn into a real clash.
In its future strategic planning, however, China is preparing to resist an Indian land invasion from the South-East and to simultaneously lead a victorious regional naval confrontation, especially in Taiwan’s peripheral area or in the South China Sea.
Certainly present-day China is simultaneously carrying out the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), with the ten ASEAN countries and the six ones with which ASEAN has further free trade treaties, as well as with the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area. The United States, however, has already created its anti-BRI commercial and economic network with the US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), and then with the probable reformulation of a proposal from the old Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) or with the new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Hence, while the United States is rebuilding its geo-economic centre of gravity in Asia – that it considers to be of primary military and commercial interest – obviously China has turned to Africa, where currently the United States is not particularly engaged.
A Zen game of void and full, where everyone represents both characteristics.
At political and technological levels, the United States is causing severe trouble to China, particularly with the recent creation of a special agency called Review of Controls for Certain Emergent Technologies, an office for “dual use” control regarding biotechnologies, Artificial Intelligence, advanced navigation and positioning systems, data analysis and above all big data, robotics and biotechnology.
This is, in fact, the broader scene of the clash on Huawei and 5G which, as we can imagine, is much more important than the simple organization of an evolved Internet network.
For example, in the 2018 US Cyber Strategy it is argued that the USA must “win two cyber wars simultaneously”, which are clearly wars against the Russian Federation and, above all, against China.
Hence, should the United States led by President Trump fail to fully win their current trade war with China, it could use the cyber leverage to redress the global balance of power, with a clear support action taken by the other NATO countries – an action which is necessary from the political and military viewpoints.
One will be used in the absence of the other – the greater the Chinese commercial presence in the leading sectors, the greater the tendency and likelihood of a cyber war against China.
And the other way round.
There is more, however, in relation to the clash between the United States and China and, hence, in relation to the necessary and logical shift of China to a closer bond with the EU, its individual Member States and the rest of the world.
For example, The National Defense Authorization Act of 2019, published on August 13, 2018, focuses on the operations of the Chinese ZTE corporation, while the US government is prohibited from purchasing all Huawei’s materials – as is now well-known – but also the products of Dahua, which deals with video surveillance, as well as the products of Hytera, which manufactures advanced radio systems and, finally, of Hikvision, the current largest producer of video surveillance systems in the world.
As has long been happening, in all the US government official documents China is also seen as a dangerous competitor of almost equal rank and power.
Is it a realistic project? The answer is both yes and no. At technological level, probably in the future. At financial and commercial levels, not yet.
Nevertheless the matter here is tuer dans l’oeuf, namely to nip in the bud.
It should also be recalled that, again in August 2018, US President Trump announced 25% additional tariffs and duties on 50 billion US imports/year from China and later 10% additional tariffs and duties on other 200 billion Chinese goods exported to the United States. Last September further duties on Chinese exports to the USA were announced to the tune of additional 267 billion dollars.
Last autumn, at the UN General Assembly, the United States made public the “alleged” China’s influence operations against the Republican Party (only?) in the midterm elections while, at the same time, Terry Branstad – the US ambassador to China since 2017, a “friend of President Xi” and former Governor of Iowa twice – published an article condemning China’s “influence operations” in Iowa.
The United States has also put great pressure on El Salvador to avoid it breaking with Taiwan. Later, however, the United States exerted further very strong pressures on the IMF, with a view to stopping funds for Pakistan that would partly be used to repay old Chinese loans to the country.
Also President Trump’s move to withdraw from the INF Treaty – which apparently concerns, above all, the Russian Federation – anyway puts also China under military pressure.
Nevertheless, there is the stick and also the carrot for the future US friends in Asia: last August, in fact, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proposed a package of financial aid for Asia to the tune of 300 million dollars, to which other 133 million dollars would be added, albeit only for specific support to private companies operating in the region.
The BUILD Act has created a new US government agency, namely the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, with as many as 60 billion dollars of US funds already available abroad, above all to Asia – a very evident response to the Belt and Road Initiative.
Hence what will the United States do in the future, considering that the bilateral clash with China is now seen as structural?
Surely, the battle over duties will continue and it is now possible that, in only two other moves, all Chinese imports to the USA will be heavily and selectively taxed.
In any case, the United States will try to hit the companies that are most active in the Chinese project known as Made in China 2025.
The current Chinese leaders’ project is modelled on the German one, known as Industry 4.0, and is already focused on the general technological upgrade of Chinese public and private companies, with the predetermined increase of components and spare parts manufactured nationally from 40% in 2020 to 70% in 2025.
There is also the construction of centres for productive innovation – that is already at an advanced stage – which will be 15 in 2020 and 40 in 2025. There will also be a change and a significant strengthening of internal intellectual property rights.
Innovation will be mainly focused on: 1) a new information technology; 2) robotics and the automated production of consumer goods and capital equipment; 3) aerospace and aeronautics; 4) hi-tech shipping; 5) railways; 6) vehicles with new energy and motion systems; 7) energy; 8) agricultural technologies; 9) new materials; 10) biopharma and advanced biomedical technologies.
In the official Chinese documents, there is no mention of “autonomous innovation “in all these sectors – as was the case in previous projects as from 2006 – and it is not here just a matter of innovation, but of entire production processes.
Autonomous innovation is internal activity and here the Chinese government makes us understand that there is a global research and experimentation activity open to collaborations with the EU, Japan and Korea.
Hence, where possible, the United States will hit exactly in these sectors, by avoiding – to any possible extent – any kind of technology transfer or, in any case, any transfer ofad hoc scientific information.
Furthermore, in the future, the United States will have the opportunity of convincing both Japan and the EU to implement practices against China featuring sanctions and open trade restriction, not only at technological level. Certainly Italy will harshly experience this kind of operations, whether they are known or not to our intelligence Services.
How will China respond to these practices? Probably with a hard and close dialogue, although with some significant concessions to the United States.
Furthermore, in the framework of China’s technological upgrade program, its leaders will have the chance to increase the non-State sphere in China’s production system. Finally China will look for new foreign markets. This is the first CPC’s response.
Most likely, the Chinese leaders will also avoid the additional burden of public debt on companies and, above all, they will largely limit the growth of real estate speculation.
In all likelihood, China will spend a lot of money on productive investment – as already envisaged in its 2025 Plan – and will look for new external markets, above all (but not only) with the Belt and Road Initiative.
It should be recalled that currently the BRI countries account for 27.3% of the total Chinese foreign trade with the United States alone.
Moreover, China will soon develop excellent regional free trade agreements, such as with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the enlarged ASEAN.
Furthermore, nothing forbids to reach a great agreement with India.
In the future, however, China’s trade interest will be, above all, in Japan and South Korea.
Meanwhile, the United States can carefully assess the military and commercial cost of an all-out economic war against China, which will certainly not be irrelevant.
This is context in which we can see the weak and tired interests of the European Union, which does not know its destiny and hence will not have one. The same applies to Italy which could use the potential of the Road and Belt Initiative, but will not be in a position to do so and, above all, will have no way out of the US strategic, military and financial pressure.
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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Trump’s coming trade war “deal” is a dud
In typically bullish style, Donald Trump has told the world he expects a resolution to his trade war with China...
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