Will S.Korea show courage in railway plan with N.Korea in face of US pressure?

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/16 22:48:43

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has proposed to start a joint railway project with North Korea by the end of the year. The biggest challenge to the infrastructure project is the US, which wants to maintain economic sanctions on Pyongyang to force the country to give up its nuclear weapons.

The US government imposed sanctions Wednesday on several foreign firms allegedly helping North Korea with illicit shipments of goods, in a bid to increase economic pressure on Pyongyang. We don't think Seoul can persuade Washington to change its strategy on North Korea. Although Moon has invited Washington to join the railway project by creating a Northeast Asian railroad community with six countries including the US, Washington is unlikely to unconditionally accept the olive branch Moon has extended.

US President Donald Trump may have promised that North Korea will become very rich on the back of US investment, but recent sanctions suggest that inviting the US to immediately join the development of North Korea is an unrealistic expectation.

Within the Northeast Asian railroad community, encompassing the US and six Northeast Asian countries including China and Russia, the US is expected to be the biggest obstacle to the infrastructure project. Both China and Russia are likely to approve South Korea's proposal to link railway networks in Northeast Asia with North Korea, because every country in the region will benefit from economic integration.

The question remaining is whether Seoul will abandon the US, a nation from outside the region, from the Northeast Asian railroad community.

There is a longstanding US-South Korea alliance. We really wonder how Seoul will respond if Washington decides to continue economic sanctions on North Korea and reject the railway plan.

Does South Korea have the courage to insist on its railway plan to bolster economic engagement with North Korea, in the face of pressure from the US?

The probability of seeing Seoul and Washington turn hostile is extremely small. The US-South Korea alliance makes it questionable whether South Korea is sincere about beginning a joint railway project with North Korea by the end of the year, or whether the big railway plan is just a tactic used by the South Korean government to lift investor confidence in its fragile economy. If South Korea can show enough sincerity, China is expected to take a positive attitude toward the railway plan.

Beijing is a staunch supporter of economic integration, but whether South Korea can push forward its railway initiative depends on Seoul's courage and sincerity. This can be taken as the epitome of today's situation in Korean Peninsula.

The US has a major stake in resolving the Korean Peninsula issue, but that issue can hardly be resolved without a reduction or withdrawal of US troops from South Korea. Whether South Korea can achieve peace and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula depends on also Seoul's courage and sincerity.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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