New cooperation model can draw North Korea into Asia’s economic center of gravity

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/9 21:08:40

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Wednesday that China, Japan and South Korea should carry out joint projects through a new cooperation model that he referred to as "China-Japan-South Korea+X." If the UN Security Council lifts economic sanctions against North Korea after it gives up its nuclear program, that nation is very likely to become the "X" in the new cooperation framework.

The ultimate aim of this model of cooperation is to establish a multilateral platform to promote Asia's development. However, given the complex geopolitical landscape of East Asia, cooperation should, more realistically, be implemented step by step with patience.

China, Japan and South Korea could perhaps directly earmark certain projects or certain countries as starting points to start cooperation. North Korea is an appropriate partner. We can perhaps allow North Korea to fill the position of "X" in the new cooperation framework.

In East Asia, the economies of China, Japan and South Korea have become heavily interdependent, but the whole region has made slow progress in economic integration because North Korea is a closed economy under UN sanctions. However, North Korea occupies a key geographical position in the region. If North Korea can be involved in the new cooperation framework, all parties concerned will benefit by connecting with one another through new trade routes.

China has called for joint projects under the new cooperation model to focus on several areas including capacity cooperation, poverty reduction, disaster management and energy conservation. North Korea and the other three East Asian countries have broad potential for cooperation in such areas. Efforts to enhance coordination and collaboration on economic issues will help integrate resources in different countries and offer effective economic assistance to North Korea.

In the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about the "10 plus 3" mechanism, which stands for cooperation between the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members and three East Asian countries: China, Japan and South Korea. ASEAN is the core part of the cooperation mechanism. However, China has called for the establishment of the new cooperation model that many have referred to as "3 plus X," the core of which is China, Japan and South Korea.

Asia's economic center of gravity is in the east, with the combined GDPs of China, Japan and South Korea accounting for about 70 percent of the Asian economy. If the three countries join hands, economic exchanges and regional affairs can be effectively promoted.   North Korea's future to some extent rests on the rejuvenation of the region.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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