The meeting between Donald J.Trump and Kim Jong-Un in Panmunjom
On Sunday, June 30, 2019, US President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un met at Panmunjom’s “peace village” for a historic meeting.
The first time for a US President in the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea.
The meeting – initially favoured by a US President’s Twitter message to Kim Jong-Un at the Osaka G20 Summit- lasted about 50 minutes and has already had its first result: the resumption of a working-level negotiation between the two countries regarding the number one issue, namely denuclearization.
It should be immediately noted that – for the North Korean power elite – “denuclearization” means in any case: a) eliminating the nuclear potential held by the North American Armed Forces in South Korea; b) bilaterally removing the missile systems between the North and the South of the Korean peninsula; c) maintaining an acceptable level of nuclear energy for electricity production.
Finally, it also means ensuring an acceptable level of nuclear technology that can remain in North Korea even after an effective negotiation, if the political winds in the USA, Japan and Taiwan changed direction.
What does the USA want when it talks about North Korea’s “denuclearization”?
In essence, it means maintaining a minimum but acceptable standard of military presence in South Korea, with a view to avoiding North Korea’s military annexation of South Korea, as well as maintaining a US military bloc of as many as 15 bases in South Korea – hence a level of conventional deterrence that also applies to Japan (and Taiwan) and a first strike force in South Korea, so as to allow the subsequent action of the bases around North Korea. Especially Guam.
The US Armed Forces consist of as many as 35,000 soldiers, while the US military presence in Japan is only slightly higher, reaching 40,000 units.
Moreover, Kim Jong-Un knows very well that China does not absolutely want to border on US military bases – and the same holds true for the Russian Federation, albeit only for the tiny border between Russia and North Korea.
From this viewpoint, Kim Jong-Un is certain about the strong and continuous support for the negotiation with the United States at first from China and secondly from Russia.
Hence, neither China nor Russia wants a too powerful People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, capable of carrying out operations – including military ones – on the peninsula and of filling South Korea with American soldiers.
History repeats itself: after the secret negotiations with Secretary of State Kissinger in 1971 to open a relationship with the USA, China immediately reassured the North Korean leaders that its aid would not be lacking and that the détente between China and the USA would also favour North Korea in its future relations with the United States.
Certainly, a part of the US power elite has often cherished the idea of a purely military and definitive solution for North Korea.
Here the joke by the Italian Communist leader, Palmiro Togliatti comes to mind, when – after the riots following activist Pallante’s failed attack on him – he told his Party’s representative in Lombardy, Giancarlo Pajetta, who had “occupied” the Prefecture of Milan: “Well, now what are you going to do with it?”
Hence what would the USA do with an impossible clash and with a probable nuclear escalation on Russia’s and China’s borders? How would Russia and China react to the loss of a friendly state and how would the other Asian States react to the breaking out of a war in Korea to “bring democracy”? Pure madness – and Kim Jong-Un knows it all too well.
Some US circles are less aware of it.
Also some US brokers and mediators with North Korea, such as my unforgettable friend, Bob Gallucci, knew it very well.
Certainly, the tension that had mounted between China and North Korea, immediately after Kim Jong-Un’s rise to power, was North Korea’s only real strategic mistake, which its Leader quickly corrected, by even turning it into a preferential relationship.
The North Korean Leader reached two other successes in the negotiations with the USA: the tested and substantial uselessness of international sanctions, which did not change the North Korean power at all, and the small economic boom that accompanied the early years of his power – an expansion that must absolutely be preserved.
Kim Jong-Un, however, also knows very well that the regime survival is linked to stable, robust and long-term economic growth.
Clearly there is a real “Chinese faction” within the North Korean power elite, that sometimes fights against the one closely linked to Kim Il-Sung’ system. Nevertheless, Kim Jong-Un – who is a careful and skillful politician, capable of calculating the right strategic equation- has also realized that it is not at all useful to alienate China. Quite the reverse.
It should be recalled that the sanctions against North Korea were imposed by the UN Security Council with China’s and the Russian Federation’s favourable votes.
Considering that all the UN Security Council’s members voted in favour of those sanctions, albeit for very different reasons, they can be lifted only if everyone agrees to do so.
Hence the sanctions – at least by the United States – could be lifted only if North Korea permanently and, above all, completely relinquishes its nuclear weapons and its ICBM carriers and medium-range launchers, which would quickly silence Guam, Japan, Taiwan and obviously South Korea.
Certainly, the IAEA has so far proved to be effective in monitoring situations very similar to those in which North Korea currently finds itself.
However, can the Vienna-based UN agency replace a strategic choice? Obviously not.
Hence we are back to the formula that characterized Bob Gallucci’s negotiation with the North Korean regime, which began in 1993: the dismantling of the Yongbion reactor, the only source – as far as we know – of North Korean plutonium, in exchange for the US and IAEA acceptance of two civilian light-water reactors for the sole production of electricity.
The Agreed Framework put in place by Bob Gallucci lasted about nine years, also despite all the piques and rebounds of the Republican Party-dominated US Senate on the transfer of fissile material, technology, etc.
On the other hand, North Korea’s nuclear issue reflects an even more profound political and strategic issue.
When the USSR – which was North Korea’s greatest supporter in the 1970s and 1980s, followed by China – collapsed, the advice that China gave to North Korea was to start the “Four Modernizations” also there, with a view to avoiding ending up just like the Soviet Union.
Nevertheless, the question put by the North Korean power elite was simple and rational: what would happen to us and to the regime if we opened the door to economic reforms and then inevitably to the policies adopted by China?
Hence, North Korea’s political use of nuclear power that also envisages – under certain conditions – the dismantling of nuclear weapons, in exchange for the lifting of sanctions and for aid flows from the West, also with a view to reducing China’s “invisible hand” in North Korea.
The United States would like a Complete, Verifiable, Irreversible Dismantlement (CVID) in keeping with the provisions of UN Resolution No. 2270 of 2016. Conversely, for North Korea the dismantling of nuclear weapons also entails the removal of 28,500 out of the 35,000 US military stationed in South Korea.
A possible solution – albeit far from easy – is the mere freezing of the North Korean nuclear program. Kim Jong-Un has often hinted at the fact that North Korea itself could give up its nuclear and missile research activities. The Punggye-ri nuclear test site has already been closed by the North Korean government unilaterally.
This solution of freezing the North Korean nuclear program would also be a rational solution. North Korea would not be forced to dismantle its weapon systems first, thus exposing itself to evident risks of military and political destabilization. The United States would be certain that the North Korean potential remains stable and that it is a system it can already oppose. Finally, the economically important possibility of resuming a robust “Sunshine Policy” would open up for South Korea.
Japan – which is anyway rearming – would see an opportunity to reopen the long-standing issue of North Korea’s abduction of its citizens. China does not want a change in the balance of power on the Korean peninsula, but it would open a market of one hundred million new consumers for its products. Finally, Russia could support a “new North Korean deal” with economic aid and political support, thus avoiding North Korea putting all its eggs in one basket, namely China.
Moreover, also North Korea’s military nuclear capacity – sold to many customers at a “strong” currency – is a far from negligible source of income for the North Korean regime.
Hence ensuring to North Korea the lost revenues from the sale of nuclear and missile technologies, but also setting a rational time schedule for the phasing out of North Korean nuclear facilities.
This should add to the actual and effective lifting of sanctions against North Korea, which are so severe that they would destroy also a rich and diversified Western-style economy.
Moreover, North Korea could initially suspend only the ICBM tests, while maintaining – albeit for a short period of time – the exercises with short and medium-range missiles designed to hit Japan.
Thus, a void of power could be avoided in the region, which may be tempting for many people, especially in South-East Asia.
However, the nuclear component of the North Korean submarines – which could be excluded from the framework of negotiations – should be studied.
We could then ask North Korea to adhere again to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Furthermore, the structural weakening of the North Korean military system should be accompanied by a Treaty – signed by the USA and its allies in the Pacific region – which guarantees to North Korea that the United States or other countries will in no way take advantage of North Korea’s new weakness.
Moreover, in exchange for denuclearization, the USA could turn the 1953 armistice into a real peace Treaty, with mutual diplomatic recognition and the opening of normal commercial and financial channels.
The USA, however, needs not to be alone in the long negotiations with North Korea.
If the European Union mattered in foreign policy – not only for the usual trite talk about budgets – this would be a good opportunity for it to come to the fore.
However, this will not happen.
Certainly, the ideal would be a tripartite agreement between the USA, China and the Russian Federation.
It would allow to slacken the regional tension, as well as to favour the trade-off between economy and military policies in North Korea, and enable Russia and China to make its interests clear to North Korea.
Furthermore, we could think of a Bank for Korea’s Transformation, which would favour the modernization of North Korea’s industry and allow to ensure widespread wellbeing, which is Kim Jong-Un’s only guarantee to stay in power for a very long period of time.
Mongolia To Strengthen Transparency Through Constitutional Reforms
The Government of Mongolia has this week made efforts to strengthen the governance of its legislature and increase transparency by passing into law a number of changes to the country’s constitution. The country hopes to create more opportunities for civil society representation by moving to a mixed electoral system.
Representatives in the country’s parliament, the State Great Khural, debated and approved reforms that will increase the number of members in the parliament from 76 to 126, with nearly 40% of the MPs now being elected through proportional representation. The Government is also shortly due to introduce separate proposals that will increase the representation of women in the parliament. All these changes are set to be in place in time for the next set of general elections in 2024.
Mongolia’s political system is centred on the sharing of executive power between the Prime Minister as the head of government, and an elected President. The country’s Constitution was adopted in 1992, with amendments made in 1999, 2000, 2019, and 2022. Recent changes have focused on securing political stability in the country, through for example limiting the maximum term of the presidency from two four-year terms to one six-year term, and amending the number of parliamentarians who can hold ministerial positions.
The increase in the size of the State Great Khural will address the rise in the number of voters represented by each parliamentarian, which has increased from 27,000 in 1992 to 44,000 today. Alongside the move towards a more proportional electoral system, the reforms are designed to bring parliamentarians closer to the people they are elected to serve by enhancing the scrutiny given to new laws.
A separate amendment to the country’s constitution creates a role for Mongolia’s Constitutional Court in reaching a final decision on citizen petitions alleging breaches of civil rights and freedoms, including equal rights between men and women, freedom of thought, speech, and peaceful assembly.
Commenting on the proposed changes to the constitution, Mongolia’s Prime Minister, L. Oyun-Erdene, said:
“I strongly support these proposed changes to Mongolia’s Constitution. They represent a further step for our country in the direction of a more inclusive and democratic future. Through increasing the representation in our parliament and broadening input into the law-making process, we will be better placed to meet current challenges and ensure that we continue to make progress towards our Vision 2050 goals, improving the livelihoods of people across Mongolia.”
Taiwan’s International Status: “A Country Within a Country”
In California, a recent meeting was held between the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, and the U.S. House Speaker, Mr. Kevin McCarthy, which holds political significance. This aforementioned meeting facilitated a negative shift in the bilateral relations between China and Taiwan. The latent hostilities between China and Taiwan possess the potential to escalate into full-scale armed conflict at any given juncture.
The incongruent dynamic existing between China and Taiwan has persisted since 1949, when Taiwan made the conscious decision to separate from mainland China.
From 1949 onwards, China and Taiwan have been embroiled in a geopolitical imbroglio pertaining to their respective territorial integrity and claims of sovereignty. The Chinese government asserts that Taiwan is an integral component of its sovereign geography. On the contrary, Taiwan is assertive of its autonomy as a distinct, self-governing entity that operates independently and is no longer subject to Chinese jurisdiction.
The discordant relationship between the two sides which has escalated over the preceding biennium, potentially heightening the likelihood of military confrontation.
Over the course of the past two years, there have been several instances in which China has deployed the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to conduct military maneuvers in close proximity to Taiwan. The aforementioned initiative was aimed at preventing any activities fueled by Taiwan that could have been construed as provocative and potentially encroach on China’s claims of rightful control over Taiwan’s sovereignty and territorial boundaries
The persistent geopolitical tensions between China and Taiwan since 1949 can be attributed to diverging opinions regarding the formal recognition of Taiwan, in particular, the contentious matter of Taiwan’s sovereignty. Tensions will continue Between China and Taiwan until Taiwan becomes independent or recognizes its self-identification as a constituent part of China.
Since 1949, the China has exerted persistent pressure upon Taiwan to acquiesce to the notion of reunification or the incorporation of Taiwan into the mainland territory of China. Nevertheless, it appears that Taiwan’s internal political circumstance and dynamics persist in maintaining its political choices and ideology as a democratic and self-governing entity.
The prolonged inability of both parties to develop a more extensive and adaptable resolution or methodology to address the matter implies that the aspiration to “normalize” relations between China and Taiwan continues to exist solely within the realm of rhetoric.
In order to achieve the objective of unification under the the idea of the “One China Principle” or One China Policy and to surmount the political divergence concerning Taiwan’s official position, has engendered several propositions by China aimed at resolving this issue. A proposed approach adopt the implementation of a “one country, two systems” protocol akin to that employed in Hong Kong and Macau.
The Chinese government has expressed that the policy is exceedingly permissive and capable of surmounting the distinct system variances that exist between the mainland region of China and Taiwan.
The proposal of “special administrative region” attributed to Taiwan enables the continued preservation of its economic, social, and security system that they have built so far, while attenuating or obviating any undue influence or interference by China. Nonetheless, the aforementioned proposal appears to be insufficient in instigating political transformation in Taiwan, given the persistent refusal of Taiwanese individuals and governmental officials to endorse unification and uphold their desire for independence.
In view of China, safeguarding Taiwan and accomplishing the complete unification of the country is not solely a matter of fulfilling its constitutional obligations, but also serves the purpose of preserving its stature as a dominant and revered nation on the global stage.
In contrast, Taiwan persistently endeavors to establish diplomatic and cross-strait relations through a range of diverse strategies and approaches with multiple nations across the globe. The clear objective is to secure the hearts and compassion of the global populace. Taiwan undertook this action with the aim of restoring its position in the global arena and paving the way for its eventual recognition as a self-governing entity with full political autonomy.
“Country within a country”
Again, the China-Taiwan issue is rooted in a territorial and sovereignty perspectives. In the global arena, China maintains a comparatively advantageous position. China, is a prominent participant in the United Nations, the most extensive intergovernmental organization encompassing numerous states worldwide, Positioning itself as a powerful participant in the direction and reflection of global politics. Furthermore, China belongs to “the distinguished” member of UN Security Council’s five permanent members, which has so far strong and great influence on world politics.
On the other hand, the international position held by Taiwan is considerably intricate. The question regarding the statehood of Taiwan remains a matter of unsettled dispute, given the absence of any universally recognized body empowered to render definitive judgments regarding the status of a nation-state.
Since the adoption of Resolution A/RES/2758 by the UN General Assembly on October 25, 1971, Taiwan has lost its international “stage”. This is because the resolution affirms China as the sole legitimate representative of China to the United Nations and consequentially nullifies Taiwan’s membership from the organization.
It is a well-documented reality that numerous nations have forged informal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, particularly in the realm of trade and investment. The United States, for instance, has solidified such relations through the Taiwan Relations Act. To the present day, a limited number of 22 nations have formally acknowledged and established official diplomatic intercourse with Taiwan. A notable aspect is that the majority of these nations lack any substantial sway or significant leverage on the international political sphere. Specifically, countries of comparatively small size in the African and Latin American regions, namely Haiti, Belize, and Tuvalu.
Taiwan has indeed met the three constitutive elements or absolute requisites deemed necessary for a country as exemplified by the 1933 Montevideo Convention. These components include the presence of a defined territorial boundary, a functioning populace, and a duly constituted government. However, Taiwan lacks a crucial element in its diplomatic status, namely the recognition from the international community through a declarative act.
The restricted global acknowledgement of Taiwan undoubtedly carries considerable political and legal ramifications. Recognition is widely regarded as the key component in modern international politics that has the potential to enhance the legitimacy and sovereignty of a given state.
Taiwan faces formidable challenges in achieving recognition. In order to attain successful governance, Taiwan must display adeptness in efficiently managing both internal and external political dynamics. Otherwise, the current state of affairs will persist, leading to Taiwan’s classification as a “subnational entity” Or “A country within a country”.
Ultimately, the resolution of the China and Taiwan conflict proves to be a formidable challenge. In order to mitigate potential future crises and uphold regional and international stability, it is necessary for China and Taiwan to refrain from engaging in provocative actions. It is imperative to adopt a cooperative approach through negotiations and concessions that are all-encompassing and pertinent, in order to attain a sustainable resolution that caters to the interests of both China and Taiwan’s populace of 23 million, while acknowledging and adapting to their respective challenges and circumstances.
The Sino-Russian-led World Order: A Better Choice for the Globe?
International forums, which were once established to promote cooperation and dialogue among the world’s states, are now increasingly being used as platforms for confrontation and accusation. The recent example of G20 and G7 summits, where China and Russia faced criticism and isolation from Western countries over the Indo-pacific and their actions in Ukraine, plus India’s accusation of Pakistan as a terrorist sponsor state in the SCO summit, illustrate these trends. Instead of working towards finding a solution to pressing global problems, these meetings have devolved into platforms for airing grievances and pointing fingers – this shift in focus has undermined the effectiveness of these forums in addressing the very issues they were created to solve.
At their recent summit in Hiroshima, Japan, the G7 leaders issued their strongest-ever condemnation of Russia and China. They accused them of using economic coercion and militarizing the South China Sea and urged them to push Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. Furthermore, at the G7 summit, leaders of the significant democracies pledged additional measures targeting Russia and spoke with a united voice on their growing concern over China.
Similarly, in Feb 2023, at the G20 finance minister’s summit held in Bengaluru, Russia and China declined to sign a joint statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and of course, as a sovereign state, Russia has the right to defend its territory and combat threats that pose a danger to its survival. These are just a few instances that illustrate how the Western world reacts to the actions and policies of China and Russia on the global stage.
Consequently, this recent condemnation and blaming at the Hiroshima summit demonstrate that international forums can no longer address serious global issues; instead, they have become arenas for blaming and accusing one another. This shift in the nature of international forums has significant implications for global governance and cooperation – It highlights the need for the failure of the current global system dominated by the Western bloc.
Besides, accusing states such as China and Russia at international forums is not a solution to global problems; instead, it can exacerbate regional tension and promote anti-sentiment against influential states. Furthermore, instead of promoting cooperation and dialogue, such accusations can foster an environment of mistrust and hostility, making it more challenging to find common ground and work towards resolving global issues.
In one of my previous papers, I argued that “the contemporary geopolitical landscape is characterized by escalating tension between the United States and its allies and China and Russia. This can be attributed to the absence of transparent and inclusive unipolar world order that effectively addresses the interests and concerns of all nations.“
I further elaborated that the US and its allies are not inclined to recognize the emergence of a Sino-Russian-led world order, as evidenced by the recent summit development. The West has frequently chastised China and Russia for their autocratic governments, breaches of human rights, and expansionist ambitions. Such claims, however, are based on a skewed and obsolete understanding of the global system that ignores the two countries’ legitimate interests and aspirations. Instead of making allegations, the Western world should be grateful for the Sino-Russian-led international system, which provides a more democratic, multipolar, and peaceful alternative to the US-dominated regional hegemony.
To begin with, the Sino-Russian-led international order is more democratic than the Western one since it recognizes the globe’s diversity of political systems and cultures. China and Russia do not push their ideals or ideologies on other countries but instead encourage them to exercise their sovereignty and self-determination. They also reject any influence or intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries, particularly by the United States and its allies. In contrast, the Western world has frequently employed economic and military force to compel or remove governments that do not share its interests or tastes. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Venezuela, and Iran are a few examples. Such operations have breached international law and generated insecurity and misery in several places.
Second, the Sino-Russian-led international order is more multipolar than the Western one because it balances the strength and influence of many global players. With expanding economic, military, and diplomatic capacities, China and Russia have emerged as crucial powers in the twenty-first century. They have also formed strategic alliances with other growing nations, including India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, and Iran. They have joined forces to oppose the US-led unipolar system and call for more egalitarian and inclusive global governance. On the other hand, the Western world has attempted to preserve its domination and hegemony over other countries, particularly in regions such as Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa. Many countries seeking greater autonomy have expressed displeasure and hostility to such a system.
Third, the Sino-Russian world order is more peaceful than the Western one because it values discussion and collaboration above confrontation and war. China and Russia have settled their historical differences and formed a comprehensive strategic alliance based on mutual trust and respect. They have also collaborated on several regional and global concerns, including counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, climate change, energy security, and pandemic response. They have also backed international institutions and procedures such as the United Nations (UN), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa), Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and others. In contrast, the Western world has frequently instigated or intensified tensions and disagreements with other countries, particularly China and Russia. A few examples are NATO expansion, missile defense deployment, sanctions system, and commerce.
Finally, international forums have the potential to promote cooperation and dialogue among nations; however, their effectiveness is hindered when they become platforms for confrontation and accusation. In contrast, the Sino-Russian-led world order is a superior choice for the globe to the Western one. It is more democratic because it values diversity; multipolar because it balances power; and more peaceful because it promotes dialogue – thus, rather than criticizing, the Western world should commend the international order led by Sino-Russian cooperation.
In conclusion, while international forums have the potential to promote cooperation among nations, they are increasingly being used for confrontation. In this context, the Sino-Russian-led world order offers a more democratic and peaceful alternative to the US-dominated hegemony and may be a better choice for promoting global cooperation.
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