New trends on peninsula worth pondering

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/9 23:08:39

Subtle new trends have emerged recently around the Korean Peninsula. A report from Japan's Kyodo News says that the administration of US President Donald Trump has told Beijing that Washington is open to welcoming North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for a meeting in the US on the condition that Pyongyang abandons its nuclear and missile programs.

Not long ago, Trump delivered similar messages in media interviews. Although people tend to believe that such a breakthrough will not be easy, speculation over a visit by Kim does not come out of nothing.

US State of Secretary Rex Tillerson, in a rare move, raised US intentions about North Korea saying that "this is not about regime change, this is not about regime collapse, this is not about an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, this is not about us looking for an excuse to come north of the 38th Parallel." Despite North Korea accusing the CIA of attempting to assassinate Kim last week, the subtle interaction between the US and North Korea is worth pondering.

A sixth nuclear test by North Korea has not taken place yet. The two ballistic missile launches in April seemed restrained. Is this a signal that Pyongyang is suspending its nuclear and missile activities? Given the recent rhetoric of Trump and Tillerson and with fewer military activities by Washington and Seoul recently, does it mean that Washington is showing a new position regarding the North Korean nuclear issue? It is too early to draw a conclusion. The complicated situation on the Korean Peninsula is characterized with tit-for-tat tactics, and neither North Korea nor the US can master each other's mind.

Beijing is still playing the key role as a mediator, despite Beijing implementing UN Security Council resolutions to sanction North Korea and Pyongyang having expressed its dissatisfaction with Beijing several times.

The Korean Peninsula can be seen as the last corner where the Cold War legacy remains. The communication among stakeholders has been fractured, and each side just resorts to bluffs and bluster.

The US and South Korea always feel threatened despite having powerful strengths. North Korea remains tough and ready to launch preemptive strikes in spite of its disadvantageous strength. China is stuck in the middle.

As China is close to the peninsula, the answers to questions such as who is challenging China's national interests and with whom China should cooperate to safeguard its national security become ambiguous.

Nonetheless, the common interests of all stakeholders are that no one wants a war. At the current sensitive juncture when either the situation worsens or a turning point for negotiations could take place, we should avoid miscalculations. Pyongyang, Washington and Seoul should realize that North Korea is the vulnerable and defensive side. It does not have the courage to have a military showdown with the US and South Korea. If its aggressive posturing leads the US and South Korea to miscalculations, the situation will spiral out of control.

Chinese society should acknowledge the complexities of the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the difficulties of Beijing's mediation. The unity of Chinese society will consolidate China's discourse power in handling peninsula affairs.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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