Friday, 5 May 2017

First Authoritative View on North Korea Nuclear Issue by Senior Chinese Leader.

       Fu Ying Chairwoman of the NPC Foreign Affairs Committee in her paper published by the Brookings Institute on 30 April 2017 on the North Korean nuclear issue for the first time highlights Chinese policies and attitude at such a high level. Fu Ying is no ordinary person. She is not Han Chinese, but a Mongol and has held the prestigious positions of Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and Chinese Ambassador to Australia and the UK. Earlier as the Head of the Asian Affairs Department in the Foreign Office, she is very familiar with the Korean issue, having dealt with it for many years. Her views therefore are authoritative, comprehensive and would bear the imprint of approval from the highest level of Chinese decision making authorities. A summary of her views is as published below:

    The Korean nuclear issue is the most complicated and uncertain factor for Northeast Asian security. It has now become the focus of attention in the Asia Pacific and even the world at large. Now, as the issue continues to heat up, one frequently raised question is: Why can’t China take greater responsibility and make North Korea stop its nuclear weapons program?
      China started to mediate on the Korean nuclear issue and host talks in 2003, at the United States’ sincere request. As a developing country, China upholds its five principles of peaceful coexistence. On the Korean nuclear issue, which has a direct bearing over regional security, China’s position is to strongly oppose nuclear proliferation. Upon taking up its role as a mediator, China firmly requested the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, commonly referred to as North Korea) to stop its nuclear weapons development while requesting other concerned parties, especially the U.S., to address the DPRK’s legitimate security concerns. But the deep mistrust between the U.S. and the DPRK made it very hard for any consensus or agreement made during the years of negotiations to be effectively implemented. China had been working hard to play its role both as a mediator and a party to U.N. sanctions, but it did not have the leverage to force either the U.S. or the DPRK to assume their respective responsibilities [emphasis added]. Without holding the key to the DPRK’s security concerns, China has no leverage to convince this foreign nation to stop its nuclear program. The U.S., which the DPRK sees as the source of threats to its security, has been neither interested nor willing to consider responding to the DPRK’s security concerns [emphasis added].As the two sides reached an impasse, the DPRK took the opportunity to move forward with its program and, since 2005, has carried out five nuclear tests and numerous missile tests. In the meantime, the U.N. Security Council has stepped up sanctions, and the U.S. and the Republic of Korea (ROK, commonly referred to as South Korea) have been carrying out heightened military exercises to exert greater military pressure on the DPRK. Consequently, tensions are now running high and the channel for talks is closed, and the situation is increasingly dangerous.
      On the international stage, the main players are nation states who enjoy sovereign rights endowed by the U.N. Charter and international law. Powerful states may have greater influence over the international situation, but they should also bear the consequences of what they say or do. Smaller or weaker states may counter or respond to pressure from powerful states, but there is a price to pay for doing so. The international situation often evolves as the result of actions and counteractions by states over specific issues, whereby tension between states can rise and even intensify, leading the situation in an unexpected direction.
       That is why China believes that peaceful negotiation is the “Pareto optimal” path. Although it may not meet the optimal demands of any party, it would bring maximal benefits to all parties with minimal cost. This would of course call for all parties, the U.S. included, to take their due responsibilities and make the necessary compromises. The reason that no results have been achieved to date is precisely because of the failure to implement negotiated agreements and the suspension of negotiations [emphasis added].
     China remains committed to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. It has been and will continue to work to safeguard regional peace and stability. China stands for dialogue as the right route to address the Korean nuclear issue. North and South Korea are geographically connected and both are China’s close neighbors; North Korea, in particular, shares 1,300 kilometers (808 miles) of common border with China. Any military conflict or disturbance in this region will endanger peace and stability, inflict huge damage to innocent people, and may even escalate tensions beyond control. The international community has witnessed enough bitter outcomes caused by the unwise use of military action over the past decades [emphasis added].

    To PD on Line on 2 May 2017 

Separately to PD on Line Fu Ying added the following:

 In terms of possible outcomes, there are three possibilities. Firstly, the North Korean regime can collapse. Secondly, the vicious cycle of sanctions followed by nuclear and missile tests can continue till a tipping point is reached and thirdly talks and serious negotiations can be re-started. Only through dialogue can mutual security be achieved. In this way we may help wrestle the Korean Peninsula out of its current vicious cycle and prevent NE Asia from turning into a dark forest. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

Why the US Hesitates on Military Action Against N Korea.

        Speaking at the UN Security Council last week, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the US was willing to open direct negotiations with North Korea aimed at removing nuclear weapons from that country. Tillerson was careful not to include "de-nuclearisation" of the Korean peninsular as an item for discussion, as that would have meant that the future of US nuclear weapons stored in South Korea would also become a part of the discussions. The Chinese have always maintained that it is "de-nuclearisation" of the peninsula that is the main question at stake. Tillerson also called on members of the UN to implement sanctions against North Korea or to downgrade their diplomatic representations at Pyongyang. Tillerson knows full well that the key is China and the attitude that its leaders adopt towards North Korea that would, in the ultimate analysis, be the determining factor.
     The US has tried to "hustle" the Chinese along by threatening as President Trump did that "if Beijing is not going to solve North Korea, we [the US] will". While there seems to be significant warming in Sino-US relations after the Trump-Xi meeting in Florida, at least as Trump puts it, yet the bilateral talks seem to have resolved little on North Korea. Just as Trump is learning today successive US administrations have also discovered, in the past, that there are no easy solutions to the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. Last year the Obama administration had talked tough about "multi-lateral" sanctions only to find that the Chinese were very reluctant. The key point is that the Chinese do not wish to push the North Korean government so hard that the regime itself becomes significantly destabilised. Therefore the Obama effort only resulted in some desultory additions to the already existing UN sanctions against North Korea. These new sanctions made hardly any difference to the policies being followed by the North Korean regime.  
      The Chinese are trying to defuse the issue as Foreign Minister Wang Yi put it "China's priority is to flash the red light and apply the break to both [the US and Korean] trains to avoid a collision". Chinese concerns are however not limited to avoiding a North Korean-US clash, but also to the removal of the THAAD deployment that the US is contemplating in South Korea. The Chinese fear that the THAAD deployment is as much for them as it is for the North Korean missiles. Therefore if any de-escalation takes place under Chinese auspices, then the US would have to re-think its THAAD deployment; as the Chinese are hardly likely to oblige without the promise of removal of THAAD from South Korea. This issue also had its comical side when Trump tweeted that South Korea would have to pay the "costs" of deployment, only to be contradicted by his NSA, McMaster who said that the US would pick up the tabs! 
     Given that their country too would be in the direct line of fire, the South Koreans are apprehensive and have called for restraint. In the forthcoming presidential elections due on 9th May 2017, the leading candidate Moon Jae-in has pledged to improve relations with Pyongyang, noting that diplomatic relations are the best bet for ensuring South Korean security. In 1994 the then President Clinton considered preemptive military action against North Korea, but the Pentagon concluded that even limited action would claim a million lives in the first 24 hours. Remember this assessment was made before the North Koreans possessed nuclear weapons. As David Sanger reported in the NYT any military action by Washington will undoubtedly trigger a counter reaction from Pyongyang that would instantly kill a third of the South Korean population.
     The US knows that North Korean artillery near the DMZ could flatten Seoul in a matter of hours should hostilities break out. Seoul is hardly 15-20 kilometres south of the DMZ and completely vulnerable to North Korean attacks. Much as the western press speculates about North Korean refugees streaming north to China or Russia, the greater worry is about what happens to the displaced South Koreans who would have had their homes and offices destroyed. Where would they go and who would look after them? It is time that everyone realises the gravity of the situation and instead of sabre rattling moves towards a negotiated settlement. There are no good military solutions available. Hopefully the US realises this inspite of the rhetorical bluster.