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China 70 years from now

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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In my opinion, after the 19thCPC National Congress, two changes characterize the new form of Communist China: the amendment to the Party’s Constitution, with the phrase “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” introduced directly by current President Xi Jinping. The other change is the new autonomous dimension of the Party’s ideology and hence of its practice.

 This is the “miracle” promised to China by President Xi Jinping in his speech on the 40th anniversary of China’s Reforms started by Deng Xiaoping. A miracle that has in fact made China ready for a “new start”, while “the Party has strengthened China’s new pride” – after the mistakes of the “Cultural Revolution”, in particular – while the economic and social reforms could anyway lead to “sudden storms”.

 Therefore China will not allow separatisms – “not even an inch of our Motherland can and will be separated from China”. Hence a hegemonic China, but “without seeking hegemony”.

 The instrument to put an end to contemporary hegemonism, in a context in which President Xi Jinping uses again Mao Zedong’s “Three Worlds Theory”. The capitalistic and developed World, which includes the “two empires” -the two superpowers – and the two client States, and finally the Third World that will be led by China.

 Hence China as owner of an economic development that “poses no threats to others”. On the contrary, and precisely for this reason – as President Xi Jinping maintains – “no one is currently in a position to dictate to China what should or should not be done in the world”. In its essence, this is exactly the “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” that President Xi Jinping wants to reaffirm both nationally and internationally.

 Again according to the current CPC’s tradition, the origin is to be found in Marx’, Engels’ and Lenin’s ideology, but above all within the project redeveloped by Mao Zedong, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.

 As can be seen, after Lenin the traditional sequence of Chinese points of reference for Marxism-Leninism was over. It continued with Mao and was later resumed – after the Four Modernizations – temporarily a few years ago.

 Nothing has been decided yet. A Great Helmsman is still needed to guide, orient and direct the Socialist modernization of China.

 Hence, there is no actual link between the Russian tradition of Communist revolution and the Chinese one.

 This is also understandable: Russia wanted to follow the capitalist West so as to later destroy it – albeit it failed in this regard – while China was mainly concerned with the Third World, to which Communist Russia certainly did not belong. Later Russia accepted the Cold War, the useless “paper tiger”, in which China has never believed. Finally it imitated capitalism, without ever having a real potential to do so,  while China was building its rational (and national) Socialism in rural areas, without imitating – at least after the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1961 – the European capitalist accumulation, nor the huge massacre of the Russian Bolsheviks’ crazy “rural reforms” between Crimea and Ukraine.

 Hence, currently President Xi Jinping think that the result of implementing his Thought is the definitive “sinicization” of Socialism and the Party.

 The effects of this new operational and political tradition by President Xi Jinping are seen – first and foremost – in the greater efficacy of the Chinese government.

 President Xi Jinping’ Socialist government adapts to Chinese society – in view of transforming it – fitting like a glove on a hand.

 The doctrinal and abstract tradition of Chinese Marxism-Leninism ended precisely with President Xi Jinping’s action. Currently the Chinese Nation and its historical project, namely Socialism, are the same thing.

 Progress towards Socialism -now inherent in the fabric of the Party, of the State and of society – is the same as the peaceful and multilateral reaffirmation of the Chinese Nation as such.

 Pragmatism, above all adherence to the reality of Chinese society, but together with a profound modernization of the system, of society and of the CPC itself.

Hence, President Xi thinks that there are currently four goals at reach. Firstly, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics that now, thanks to President Xi Jinping, is fully embedded in China. Secondly, the Party’s ideology, which is always falling within the State’s competence and is hence responsible for the Nation’s and People’s national evolution, but now merges national interest with Socialism. Thirdly, the reaffirmation of the Party’s role on the State, which may still be lagging behind President Xi Jinping’s project. Fourthly, the Party’s culture, which is the one and only guidance for the Party itself.

 In other words, this means strengthening the Party’s culture to improve its role as an example, as policy line and as future direction.

 According to President Xi Jinping, the Party’s primary goal for the whole Chinese Nation, and not only for its proletariat, is the improvement and, above all, the current consolidation of the People’s living conditions.

 Wellbeing is one of the goalsof “President Xi Jinping’s policy line” that dominates the Party, in addition to the gradual construction of a Great Country for everybody (no limitation to China’s military and strategic prestige) and a Strong Country (no limitation to Socialist China’s geopolitical projection). Also a Civil Country (no limitation to the people’s cultural and ideological evolution) shall be constructed and a Democratic Country (the maximum representation, within the Party, for all the voices of Chinese society), as well as a Harmonious Country, i.e. without the typical imbalance of society with respect to the evolution of its political direction. “Productive Forces” and “Relations of Production”, just to put it in Marxist terms.

   Hence the Party dictates the policy line and the Chinese harmonious society adapts it to every condition and situation.

 It is in this sense that today, under President Xi’s leadership, we can speak about a particular “China’s Renaissance”.

 A mass Renaissance – just to recall Antonio Gramsci’s theories -that hence avoids the problem of being – like the Italian national Risorgimento- a “reform led by the elites alone” and limited in its scope and purposes.

 Hence national and cultural mass renaissance, spread among all classes of the People, the Party and the Nation.

 We should not believe that this historical phase is based on a limited, artificial or ad hoc memory.

 As early as July 1921, when the Communist Party of China was established in Shanghai, the founding members included Li Dazhiao, the founder of the Research Association on Marxism.

 From the beginning, there was an independent study on the dialectic of classes and on historical materialism, based on Chinese material conditions.

 Hence the study was focused on the specificities of the possible Chinese Communist revolution, as well as on the autonomy of the national and social thought. Maximum attention was paid to the classics of Marxism, while the Russian Bolsheviks were still unable to define their own way, between global revolution in capitalist countries and what could already be perceived, namely “Socialism in one country”.

 As early as August 1921, a few days after the Party’s foundation, Zhang Guotao established the Secretariat of Chinese Workers.

 From the beginning – and this is a sign that persists and, indeed, is strengthening even today – the workers’ representation and the Party were almost the same organization that overlapped. It never happened in the history of any Communist Party.

 Hence no Stalinist “transmission belt”: the trade union and the Party were both inside the Chinese society and transformed it every day, without the old-fashioned separation between “reforms” and / or “revolution” – the sign of a rough thought and, to many extents, not typical of Chinese wisdom, in which every change and every revolution are either large or small. It depends but, however, it is not a subjective evaluation.

 Also the relationship between the newly founded Communism and the Chinese national movement strengthened from the beginning. There was not the long discussion between the national and progressive movement and the proletarian movement that was the basis for the evolution of the European, Western and Russian Communist debate.

 Sun Yat-Sen’s Kuomintang immediately opened its doors to Chinese Communist trade unionists, who characterized the trade union movement far beyond the limits of their Party.

Another anomalous tradition of Chinese Marxism compared to the West, as well another root of the bond between the Party and the Masses, that President Xi Jinping still passionately emphasizes.

 In 1922 Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi and Li Lisan organized trade unions and mass strikes, not only of the Communist workers – as in the West – but in the Hunan Province. Again in July 1922, the Chinese Communists decided to collaborate with the then progressive nationalism of Sun Yat Sen and the Kuomintang, even in opposition to Mao, who did not fully agree.

 That choice was at the origin of both the CPC’s nationalist roots – without delays and rhetoric – and of certain ideological infiltrations that Mao Zedong tried to later use or eliminate.

 A problem that President Xi Jinping has definitely solved.

 A very severe problem, i.e. adapting without imitating and, hence, without absorbing the contradictions of Western capitalism, which is still in Xi Jinping’s mind.

 Only in 1923 did the CPC and the CPSU sign a mutual collaboration agreement.

 When, while referring to Russians, Deng Xiaoping spoke about the “enemies of the North”, he was still the spearhead of an old tradition of Chinese Communism.

 In 1923, however, the CPC officially adopted the “Russian policy line”.

  At the time, Mao Zedong joined the Central Committee and actively collaborated with the Kuomintang.

 Nevertheless, the price paid by the Kuomintang was very high: in January 1924 the CPC became part of the Kuomintang itself, albeit with three clauses: the alliance with the USSR; the stable unity of action with the Communist Party; the equally stable mass action with peasants and workers.

 Three factors that led to the end of Sun Yat Sen’s nationalist movement – except for new and powerful allies.

 In that case there was no obvious “entryism”, as we say in the jargon of European Communism: in China, Mao’s CPC was a Party entrenched within the masses it stably represented and connected with what the Marxists – probably somehow naively – still defined “national bourgeoisie”.

 As early as 1924, in Shanghai the CPC decided to step up “mass work”, while preserving its organization independent of the Kuomintang.

 The national bourgeoisie and the so-called “compradora” bourgeoisie merged in China-and hence in the Kuomintang. Therefore the CPC needed to become autonomous and work with every part of the revolutionary bourgeoisie.

 Unlike what happened in Europe during the same period,  when the national Communist Party either stood as the enemy of everyone – and above all of the progressive bourgeoisie – or rendered itself useless by remaining in a sort of splendid and useful isolation.

 Or it accepted unity with everyone, thus starting to lose itself and its political autonomy.

 The Canton Merchants’ Corps Uprising of August 1924 – in which the merchants were supported by Great Britain -was initially a rebellion against a new tax imposed by the government, which everyone also considered an expression of the USSR.

 The uprising was repressed, but the CPC’s struggle to avoid being identified as a simple offshoot of Russia was successful.

 On that occasion, the Kuomintang’s Central Bank was created.

  It happened in Canton, while, shortly afterwards, China found itself in four areas dominated by weak military coalitions.

 That was the real and empirical connection of Socialism with national unity in China.

 Without unity of the Chinese people – apart from the identities imposed by colonialism (and by some “friendly” country, currently as in the past) – there could be no unity of the nation and, hence, of Socialism itself which, if not led by the People’s Party of China, would inevitably repeat the “century of humiliation”.

 Finally, in early May 1925, Mao Zedong was elected President of the rural federation, always under the then national and progressive aegis of the Kuomintang.

Hence without an analysis of the peasant conditions – which is not mere productive “backwardness”, according to the old Russian Bolsheviks – there is no Chinese Communism not referring directly to a specific and material analysis of the peasant conditions.

 Hence we cannot reduce the peasant issue to a trivial theme – not by chance used both by the Russian Bolshevik Communists in their heinous “reforms” and by capitalists of the 1960s, the years of “take-off” and “underdevelopment”.

 Rural areas were not tantamount to underdevelopment. They were tantamount to exploitation, if anything.

 Without underdevelopment, what could we eat?

 Hence, as already seen, the CPC was born within the union and realistic context of the protection of needs of a wide majority of people, mainly rural, while maintaining a sound political and ideological class identity – as is still the case today.

 In 1928, Chiang Kai-Shek’s troops, the Kuomintang, occupied Peking.

 In that year, again referring to the rural masses, the CPC ordered the “Autumn Harvest Uprising”, thus triggering and resolving the problem of the true origin of class struggle in China, i.e. the clash between poor peasants and landowners.

 In 1929, the law confiscating the lands of Xing’guo and the new Civil Code were enacted. Hence the confiscation of State lands and of those belonging to landowners started.

 The war against Japan, which had invaded Manchuria, began.

 In February 1936, the Red Army marched towards Shiensi and recruited thousands of peasants, also with the support of the local warlord.

 The CPC asked not to requisition the lands of those who had fought against Japan.

 Nation and People, but also Socialist transformation of the economy. All three things together – as is currently the case.

 After many acts of war, also the tragic Nanjing massacre took place.

 A cruel slaughter of local inhabitants by Japan.  350,000 civilians were annihilated.

  China’s main cities were conquered by Japan, which meanwhile had established the capital in Peking.

 In 1943 the war was not over yet: the CPC adopted the so-called policy line of the “Resolution of the Many Traditional  Problems”, under Mao’s direct supervision.

  In 1945 Mao’s positions at the CPC Congress gained the upper hand in Ya’an – hence the policy line of the coalition government.

 Therefore the CPC’s essential political issue was solved, i.d. the national bourgeoisie that had become part of the Party. Also the social issue was solved, with the autonomous leadership of the CPC, which dealt with the great agrarian reform. There was also the military and strategic issue that, at the time, was already outside the CPSU scope. Finally uniqueness of power after the evident defeat of the Kuomintang.

 Almost the same as today.

 In 1948, the Chinese People’s Bank was established as issuing bank.

 In particular, it guaranteed the funds necessary for the companies to reach the goals of the five-year plan.

 Autonomy from the global financial cycle, when needed – as is currently the case.

 In 1949 the Red Army returned to the liberated city of Shanghai.

 What about the Belt and Road Initiative? Today’s Long March? What role does it currently play?

 It is largely a legacy of Hu Jintao and of the solution of the Chinese border issue by Jiang Zemin.

 At predictive level, it is a matter of 65 countries with a maximum trade totalling 2.5 trillion US dollars over ten years, with a project like this one that is expected to amount to 26% of the current Chinese foreign trade.

 An opportunity to find a way out, to remove dangerous land borders and to finally put an end to China’s estrangement from contemporary world.

 Not a “Cold War”, but a gradual multilateral and bilateral integration.

 Hence making the energy supply safe for China with the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as getting out of the spiral between monetary QE and commercial expansion, only thanks to the huge dimension of the Belt and Road Initiative, and finally finding an outlet for foreign direct investment that China desperately needs.

 A current sum of factors responding to the three policy lines with which the Party was founded: national interest at first, unity of the Nation and economic development.

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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Why does the Dragon do what it does

Moaaz Awan

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The recent stand-off between China and India has been the headlines around the world, especially since the stand-off went ugly with 20 Indian soldiers and an unknown number (probably less than 20) Chinese soldiers losing their lives in a vicious hand to hand combat. Since then, nationalistic sentiments in India are running high with immense public pressure to account for the Chinese for what happened in Galwan Valley. In order to understand the motives behind the recent clashes, one has to go back to 1962 or even before that.

This is not the first time that tensions along the LAC (Line of Actual Control) have flared up and definitely this is not the end of such events. Strategically, what was true in 1962, is true today. The real bone of contention is still Aksai Chin. Aksai Chin is the Dragon’s hanging sword on Delhi, which can be unleashed anytime keeping India continuously in a state of passive defensive. As long as China adheres to its strategy on Aksai Chin, it will always have the strategic initiative, and India’s “great power ambition” will continue to lay in the abyss of the Indian Ocean.

Aksai Chin indeed was a part of the State of Kashmir but since Kashmir already was being fought over between India and Pakistan and the region being far from both India and Pakistan was inaccessible to both claimants. Beijing saw an opportunity and with tacit approval from Pakistan, went ahead to control this “Sand Sea of China” which is the literal translation of Aksai Chin in Turkic.

Aksai Chin is strategically very important for China. It is the only possible land route that connects China’s Xinjiang Region to Tibet. China’s G219 Highway and the New Tibet Railway Line both pass through Aksai Chin. If there was not to be an Aksai Chin, the Chinese had to cross the hard terrain of the Kunlun Mountains to connect China’s two big landmasses. In 1962 when China took the initiative to cross the LAC, Beijing had several things on its mind. Firstly, it had to secure Aksai China so that a land link between Xinjiang and Tibet can be established. Secondly, China knew that controlling the heights over India is going to give it a long term strategic advantage and through it, it could always keep the initiative in its hands, keeping Delhi in a defensive position for an unprecedented time in the future. Thirdly, it wanted to support Pakistan which was having its own problems in the Kashmir sector. In case of any future Indo-Pak conflict, China would be in a better position to intervene. Lastly, and most important of all, Beijing wanted to ensure no future disturbances along the LAC. The main objective of the 1962 War was made very clear by Chairman Mao at the Xiangshan meeting: “At least 30 years of peace must be guaranteed.”

One may wonder that what does thirty years of peace do. What merited the risk of crossing over the LAC by the Chinese? The answer is rather simple: Integration of Tibet! Tibet was having internal problems and especially after the Dalai Lama fled Tibet it was getting harder for Beijing to keep it under control, but that couldn’t be possible unless and otherwise New Delhi would be completely knocked out of the Tibetan game and this is exactly what the 1962 War did.

Some analysts believe that instead of focusing on Aksai Chin which is a rugged piece of land, China should’ve gone for the Arunachal Pradesh, which the Chinese call “Southern Tibet”. The area is also much richer in natural resources than Aksai Chin. The point made then by Beijing was that Arunachal Pradesh was a more difficult terrain to be defended plus the aim was to stabilize the whole of Tibet, instead of just Southern Tibet. Another interesting reason why Beijing kept mum about Southern Tibet was that it was the “Granary of Tibet”, the absence of which meant that Tibet had to rely on Beijing for its basic necessities. Another well-calculated move by Beijing to reign in Tibet.

All along the 1962 War, Beijing was clear of its objectives. It was not expansionism that drove the war but rather strategic interests. The war was initiated by China, and China itself took the initiative to end it. It was clear to the Chinese planners that any War with India had to be swift, decisive and must set the tone for future engagements. That is why after the PLA took over control over large swathes of land across the LAC and the “McMahon Line”, then quickly retreated back to the “McMahon Line”. Since the battleground is usually too cold for battle, the PLA had only a two-month window to launch an offensive

Prior to the war, at the Beijing Xiangshan meeting in which it was decided to fight the 1962 War, Zhou Enlai specifically instructed that “logistics must be done well, and we must never increase the number of casualties due to logistical factors like in the Korean War.”

Learning on the lessons of 1962, India unilaterally decided not to build any infrastructure in the region surrounding the LAC, fearing that the same infrastructure might be used by the Chinese to come into the Indian mainland. Since now New Delhi is ascertaining its regional and global power, it is constructing new roads and infrastructure along the LAC and China is clearly not happy with India changing the status quo. Previously, the status quo maintained gave Beijing a strategic advantage. One border issue had pinned India for decades, wasting a lot of India’s national power, and has allowed China to develop with peace of mind for decades.

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Escalation of conflict between two Koreas: Why now and what could it lead to?

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Observers worldwide signal a rapid deterioration of relations between two Koreas which began on June 9th, after North Korea’s authorities discontinued contacts with South Korea over the anti-Pyongyang leaflets circulated by North Korean defectors. While Seoul has announced readiness to take measures, the other party chose to ignore the announcement.

Pyongyang has blocked all communication lines with Seoul (except those between special services). North Korea has also blown up the building of the inter-Korean communication office in Kaesong, which was opened in 2018 for promoting cooperation between North Korea and South Korea. This is a precedent which sets one thinking: why is all this happening now and what could it result in?

Throughout the past few decades Pyongyang has repeatedly resorted to the “slam the door” tactic according to which it first broke contracts and then resumed them. There was a time when the participants in inter-Korean talks threw cookies at one another during a coffee break in a manifestation of mutual resentment. But no one blew up buildings.

Significantly, the measures in question have been reported by Kim Jong-un’s younger sister Kim Yo-jong, who described South Korea as a «foe». Deputy head of the propaganda department of the Central Committee of the Korean Labor Party, this pretty-looking lady with good manners were originally appointed to represent the North Korean regime with a “human face”. Now, she is playing the part of a “bad cop”.

So, why is it all happening now? The year 2020 began with radical changes about American-North Korean denuclearization talks, which ran into a deadlock. North Korea repeatedly voiced discontent over the US not lifting sanctions against Pyongyang and not calling off military exercises with South Korea despite the fact that North Korea has stopped nuclear tests, frozen intercontinental ballistic missile launches and closed nuclear testing sites. In response, Pyongyang chose to raise negotiation stakes by saying ‘no’ to talks on the lifting of some UN-imposed sanctions in exchange for major nuclear facilities of North Korea.

Apparently, North Korea considers it possible to repeat the same tactic in its relations with the South, which have been stalled, largely over the coronavirus pandemic.  Despite Pyongyang’s expectations, North-South relations cannot enter the specific cooperation phase, first of all, over the  position of Washington, which has been doing everything to thwart it.

When a chess game enters a deadlock, the angry party, like in the Ilf and Petrov classic, is tempted to overturn the chessboard, or worse, to crush it on the head of the other party. This is the logic that the North Korean party could be driven by at the moment; such a behavior seems quite sensible, because it has yielded good results many times before. The question is why torpedo the inter-Korean dialogue now, under President Moon Jae-in, who is widely known for his commitment to the  North-South dialogue and has done a lot to promote it (and must have been getting ready to do more, thereby earning a credit for himself in history before he steps down from the post of president in 2022)?

It is not a secret that this dialogue has limits which are imposed by American-South Korean alliance. Since the North has always been against them, the current escalation could well be part of an attempt to “blow up” the existing system (or, at least, rock it out of balance). But this kind of move is hardly sensible and hardly feasible.

What will the current escalation which the North has been demonstrating so openly (“seven people hold me, or I break loose and crush everything”), lead to?  What sounds alarm is Pyongyang’s intention to deploy troops in areas which have been deemed as demilitarized since 1953, when North and South Koreas signed an armistice agreement. After that the two sides saw a number of intermittent setbacks but they never touched the border zone in the 38th parallel. Seoul and Pyongyang never attempted to reconsider the zone’s demilitarized status.  A violation of this “taboo” is fraught with danger – it could cause unintended military incidents on the demarcation line, particularly considering the fact that the 38th parallel has the world’s biggest concentration of military power and weapons.

Finally, what are external players to do? The UN secretary-general has urged the United States and South Korea to take joint efforts to normalize inter-Korean relations. After that the State Department issued a corresponding statement which ran into a rebuke on the part of North Korea. The day before the Trump administration extended sanctions against North Korea for another year, and the circle has been closed.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry and Russian State Duma coordinator for cooperation with North Korea Kazbek Taisaev have expressed hope that peace will be preserved. But this is not enough. Russian and Chinese diplomats have been acting in line with a consolidated position of China and Russia on the situation around the Korean Peninsula, which was enshrined in the Joint Statement of the two countries’ foreign ministers of July 4, 2017. Action for action, a step-by-step lifting of sanctions depending on progress at the talks is what Russia and China propose for a settlement. This principle, however, proceeds from the fact that North Korea is interested in such progress, not vice versa. For this reason, our countries’ foreign ministries may have to streamline their strategy with a view to make it easier to implement and boost its effectiveness.

From our partner International Affairs

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Will There Be an End to the Korean War?

Gleb Ivashentsov

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The Korean War began 70 years ago, on June 25, 1950. This was not just a standoff between neighboring states. The Korean War, in fact, began as a civil war between the two Korean camps (the North, that sought to build the future of Korea according to the Soviet model, and the South, committed to American attitudes). In the context of the Cold War, it immediately developed into a large-scale military conflict. Great powers were directly or indirectly involved. This includes the USA, Great Britain, USSR, PRC, as well as the UN, which sent an international military contingent to Korea under its own flag to help the South.

Military Confrontation on the 38th Parallel

The inter-Korean confrontation continues to this day. Today, on both sides of the 38th parallel — the latitude line that roughly demarcates the two Korean states — military fortification is piled up, and thousands of troops with modern weapons and military equipment target each other. Moreover, in accordance with the Mutual Defence Treaty between the U.S. and South Korea, the latter is hosting a group of U.S. troops of 28.5 thousand people, subordinate to the ROK/U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC).

And if Seoul does need the U.S. military presence in Korea in order to protect South Korean economic prosperity from the hypothetical encroachment of Pyongyang, then for Washington, it is only an element of the global system for ensuring “American leadership.” The Korean Peninsula is the only continental element of the U.S. military presence in East Asia. In addition, South Korea, as an ally of the United States, significantly strengthens American military power in the Pacific, doing so to a much greater extent than Japan, still fettered by Article 9 of its Constitution.

Nuclear Issue

In the 1990s, the tangle of security problems on the Korean peninsula was supplemented by the North Korea nuclear crisis. North Korea, in violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, announced the development of a nuclear missile program. Pyongyang remembered the calls of the American General Douglas MacArthur, who led the United Nations Command in the Korean War, to use the atomic bomb, and believed that the DPRK’s own nuclear weapons could prevent a potential strike from the United States in the event of a new inter-Korean war.

The United States confronted the North Korean nuclear missile program with a sanctions war and aggressive military rhetoric. This included direct threats of President Trump in 2017 to physically destroy the DPRK should it decide not to give up nuclear missile development. However, common sense prevailed. Mutual accusations gave way to dialog. Three inter-Korean and two North Korea-the U.S. summits took place in 2018–2019.

Inter-Korean Dialog

Inter-Korean dialog was facilitated by two circumstances. On the one hand, having created long-range nuclear missile weapons, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un decided that the main strategic goal to ensure the security of the DPRK from the United States had been achieved, and that the nuclear-missile race could be suspended by putting more funds into economic needs. On the other, it was the behavior of South Korea that promoted a thaw in the relations. And this is not only due to the fact that from the very beginning, the current President of the Republic of Korea, Moon Jae-in, went to the polls under the slogans of restoring dialog with Pyongyang. The aggressive rhetoric of Donald Trump in 2017 regarding the DPRK also played its role. For the first time in several decades, the world was faced with the real threat of a new war on the Korean Peninsula at the initiative of the United States. South Korea would be the main victim of it, suffering a powerful blow from the North. Therefore, if Washington’s victory in the war would be the liquidation of the North Korean state in its current form, then for Seoul, the only option for victory would be to prevent the war.

There were a lot of expectations from inter-Korean summits. But these expectations were only met, perhaps, by the fact that there will be no nuclear or other war in Korea in the near future. The declarations adopted in Panmunjom and Pyongyang by Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in set a number of tasks to promote cooperation between the two Korean states. However, for the most part, these documents looked more like statements of intent. Many political and legal obstacles stood in the way of fulfilling these intentions.

Therefore, the inter-Korean dialog that pompously started in 2018 began to stall by the end of 2019. At the beginning of June of the current year, it even reached a dead end. Under the pretext that the South Korean authorities did not prevent various public organizations from sending balloons with leaflets wording the attacks on the North Korean regime, Pyongyang blocked all communication channels with Seoul. In addition to this, Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, who now oversees relations with the South and, in general, has practically become the second most influential figure in the DPRK power structure, promised Seoul to destroy the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong in the near future (which was done — Ed. note.), the next step to be made by the military of the North.

The point was not, of course, in sending the balloons with leaflets to North Korea, especially since many of them had not reached the DPRK. The reasons go deeper. On overcoming the coronavirus pandemic, the DPRK economy is in dire need of economic support, and Pyongyang makes it clear that they are dissatisfied with Seoul’s lack of any steps aimed at restoring inter-Korean economic cooperation. This was stipulated by the agreements reached at the summits of Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in. This is primarily about the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) and the Kumgangsan tourist region. The KIC, located in the DPRK near the border with the Republic of Korea, was the largest and most successful inter-Korean project. It housed the production of more than a hundred South Korean small and medium-sized enterprises, which employed about 50 thousand North Korean workers. By 2015, through the work of the Kaesong complex, inter-Korean trade turnover reached USD 3 billion, which made South Korea the second most important trading partner of the DPRK after China. The Kumgangsan tourist region was open to South Korean citizens for ten years, from 1998 to 2008. During this time, almost 2 million South Koreans could visit it, giving the DPRK government an additional source of income.

Pyongyang seems to be counting on the large victory of the ruling Democratic Party in the parliamentary elections in South Korea in April this year, which might create new prerequisites for restarting the inter-Korean peace process. This is all the more since immediately after the elections, the Office of President Moon Jae-in stated that normalization of relations with Pyongyang remained a priority for the country’s leadership and the resumption of negotiations between the North and the South might occur in May-June.

However, the initiator of rapprochement with the North, President Moon Jae-in, found himself in a critical situation. The most important asset of his party in the elections was not an inter-Korean settlement program, but the successful actions of the South Korean authorities in the fight against the pandemic. Now that the unrest around the pandemic has more or less subsided, the economic problems in the country, aggravated by the pandemic and corruption scandals involving people close to Moon, are again coming to the fore in the public consciousness of the South Koreans. So today, the President of the Republic of Korea is clearly not up to talking with Pyongyang.

The pressure of the big ally certainly plays its role. Before the results of the U.S. presidential election, Washington will not only be unable to take any action on the Korean vector, but will also disallow Seoul to take the initiative.

Do all of Korea’s Neighbors Want the Reunification?

In the current alignment of forces near the Far Eastern borders of Russia, the establishment of Korea as a single independent neutral and nuclear-free state would be in its interest. The question, however, is that at this stage, neither North nor South Korea is ready for reunification. The partners of the two Korean states are not ready for this either.

Seoul is concerned that reunification will come at a very high cost, pulling it out of competition at the regional and global levels for a long time. Pyongyang, in turn, does not intend to surrender to the South. They examined the experience of Germany, where the capitalist West brought the socialist East to heel, making former GDR citizens “second-class” and subjecting members of the former East German power elite to all kinds of persecution, including imprisonment. The new young generation of the North Korean elite is actively blending in with the emerging North Korean business under Kim Jong-un. We have already seen something similar in Russia. Both of these classes — the current military party elite and the North Korean nouveau riche — have a vital common interest in preserving a separate North Korean statehood. The unification of Korea under the leadership of Seoul is equally dangerous for both, because in this case, the elite will lose power, and local business will simply be crushed by the South Korean chaebol monopolies.

As for the United States, it is not really in its interest to have Korea reunited rather than having status quo on the Korean peninsula, maintaining tensions there. This is the most convenient way to keep and, if necessary, strengthen the U.S. military-political presence in Northeast Asia.

China is considering the alignment of forces on the Korean Peninsula primarily through the prism of its confrontation with the United States. Beijing will support the reunification of Korea only if it is sure that a united Korea will be pro-Chinese. There is no certainty about this: Korea, united under Seoul conditions, will, at best for China, become a powerful independent state with strong ties to the United States, and at worst, like Japan, the outpost of Washington’s deterrence of China in the region.

The Japanese, in turn, say that the main question for them is who will get the North Korean nuclear weapons. Tokyo will support the reunification of Korea, only being sure that these weapons are destroyed or withdrawn. In fact, the Japanese are simply afraid of the emergence of a united Korea as a powerful competitor in the regional and world arena, similar to the way England and France tried to delay the unification of Germany in the late 1980s.

Therefore, speaking about the reunification of Korea in the current conditions is at least premature. It should be a matter of inter-Korean reconciliation, building bridges between the two Korean states.

Trump and Pyongyang

In 2018 Donald Trump’s transition from the threat of a military attack on Pyongyang to a dialog with Kim Jong-un was largely forced. Both the insistence of South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the issue of inter-Korean detente and the general international attitude against the risk of a nuclear war against North Korea played a role. Special attention should be given to, firstly, the “road map” for settling the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula put forward on July 4, 2017, by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Russia and China. And, secondly, to the unwillingness of the U.S. allies to engage in new American adventures in Korea, which was clearly shown in January 2018 at Vancouver meeting of the foreign ministers of those states whose troops fought in the Korean War of 1950-1953 on the side of the South as part of the so-called UN forces in Korea.

In dialog with Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un voiced the new relations between the DPRK and the U.S. as the main condition for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. These relations should be based on mutual trust and free from mutual demonization. It is clear that this is not an easy task for Pyongyang and Washington. But there are examples of how similar challenges were solved in due time in China-the U.S. and Vietnam-the U.S. relations. The future relations of the DPRK and the U.S. could reach the level of today’s communication between Vietnam and the U.S., when they still remember the war, but the memory of the past does not prevent them from working together in the present.

Pyongyang could stop the development of ICBMs, freeze the production of nuclear materials, and open its nuclear facilities for international inspections. And Washington, in return, would officially recognize the DPRK, establish diplomatic relations with it, exchange diplomatic missions, limit military activities at its borders, reduce and ultimately lift sanctions, and provide economic and energy assistance to the North.

The problem, however, is that at least for the coming year, any progress in the U.S.-North Korea dialog is ruled out. Trump is concerned about preparations for the presidential election, the extremely unfavorable situation in the country due to racial unrest, and not about Korea. Both now and in case of winning the elected position, there will be more important issues — China, Europe, Russia, the Middle East. Korea will not be among the U.S. foreign policy priorities even if Biden wins the election (all for the same reasons).

Inter-Korean Reconciliation Matter is in the Hands of Koreans Themselves

The main result of the inter-Korean summits was Seoul being reconciled with the existence of the DPRK and adopting the policy of peaceful coexistence with respect to it. The urgent need for the Republic of Korea today is to recognize the status of the DPRK as a sovereign state, the rule of law and constitutionality of its leadership, and shift the relations between the two Koreas into a bilateral format.

The UN is called upon to play its role in this situation. It has been dealing with the “Korean issue” from the moment it arose in the late 1940s. Yet after the approval of two resolutions on this issue at once during the 30th session of the General Assembly in November 1975 (one initiated by the USA and the other by the USSR (both remained unfulfilled)), it basically removed the issue of a political settlement in Korea from the agenda.

First of all, it is worth changing a completely unnatural situation when, formally it is not the Republic of Korea, that is in the military confrontation with the DPRK, but the UN. To assist South Korea during the Korean War, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution No. 84 of July 7, 1950, the United Nations Forces in Korea were created — the multinational armed forces of 16 states led by the United States. Since these forces participated in the Korean War under the UN flag, and the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement was signed on the behalf of these forces opposing the Korean People’s Army and Chinese People’s Volunteers (and in fact on behalf of the UN), the latter is still formally at war with the DPRK, that since 1991 is a full member of the UN.

It is time to adopt the UN Security Council declaration and to declare that the Korean War was a page of the past, that the UN Security Council turns this page and, accordingly, there is no need for the UN Command in Korea.

As for the American troops in South Korea, their presence should be regulated exclusively by interstate agreements between the Republic of Korea and the United States. In this case, it would be worthwhile to decide on the issue of Operational Command (OPCON) by the ROK/US Combined Forces Command. Now, under bilateral agreements, in peacetime on the peninsula, South Korea commands both its own troops and the U.S. military contingent. However, with the outbreak of war, the command automatically transfers to the United States, which means, in fact, that the President of the Republic of Korea, as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the country’s armed forces, becomes subordinate to the Lieutenant General of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Peace Treaty

The question about the need to replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement in Korea with a peace treaty repeatedly arose in connection with the inter-Korean summits. At the same time, there is a wide range of opinions expressed as to which states should be parties to this treaty.

The Armistice Agreement of 1953 was not an interstate document. It was an agreement between the commanders-in-chief of the warring parties on the suspension of hostilities, the withdrawal of troops and establishing a demilitarized border between them. Neither the Republic of Korea, nor the United States, nor China in state capacity were involved in the armistice agreement. Moreover, the United States and China did not participate in the Korean War as states.

The peace treaty on the Korean Peninsula should be the treaty of two sovereign independent states — the DPRK and the Republic of Korea. There are certain preconditions for this. A joint communique of the Republic of Korea and North Korea was issued on July 4, 1972, calling for an independent and peaceful reunification of the divided country, without depending on foreign powers and without foreign interference, on the basis of “great national unity.” In December 1991, the heads of government of the North and South for the first time formally recognized the equal existence of two Korean states by signing the Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression and Exchanges and Cooperation. Five inter-Korean summits took place from 2000 to 2018, joint declarations being adopted at each of them — a program for the development of bilateral relations aimed at a gradual shift from confrontation to reconciliation and phased rapprochement. None of these documents provided for the participation of any third states in inter-Korean communication. It was and should be about the interaction of the two Koreas exclusively in a bilateral format.

It is noteworthy that during the 2018 Pyongyang Summit the Agreement on the Implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain was signed by the Ministers of Defense of the DPRK and the Republic of Korea. This is a fundamentally new and, most importantly, a practical step towards reducing military tension. Confidence-building measures between the military are being strengthened, communication channels are opening up, the parties are going to take all measures to prevent any clashes and conflicts with the use of military force in any territory. This is all the more important, firstly, since the ROK in its own capacity did not sign the Armistice Agreement in Korea in 1953. Secondly, the leaders of the two states announced that they would pursue a joint bid to host the 2032 Olympic Games. That is, the ROK recognized that it did not expect, as in the previous years, the regime to fall in the DPRK and that the North and South would exist separately even in 15 years.

The Korean War that started 70 years ago, has not ended yet. The Korean crisis today is one of the main threats to international security. This crisis has two components: the division of the Korean nation over decades into two separate states and the DPRK nuclear missile program.

These two components of the Korean crisis are interconnected, but their impact on each other is unequal. Pyongyang’s refusal from nuclear development alone will not end the confrontation between North and South. At the same time, normalization of inter-Korean relations is a prerequisite for ending the Korean War matters and solving the denuclearization issue of the Korean Peninsula.

From our partner RIAC

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