All-out war unlikely on the Korean Peninsula

Source:Global Times Published: 2010-12-23 8:26:00

Luo Yuan

Editor's Note:

The situation on Korean Peninsula became more intensified and complicated after the South Korean artillery exercises on Yeonpyeong Island on Monday. Confronted with South Korea's military drill, the North didn't respond by military retaliation as many had feared. How will the tension on the Korean Peninsula further develop? What role should China play in easing the situation? People's Daily Online (PO) interviewed Luo Yuan (Luo), major general in the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, on these issues.

PO: Why did South Korea make the artillery exercise such a high-profile action? And what impact might result from it on the Korean Peninsula?

Luo: As far as I can see, South Korea's high-profile drill conveys a certain message and is a diplomatic gesture. There are three objectives: first, to show the determination of retaliation against the North's future adventures; next, to comfort South Koreans and relieve domestic pressure; finally, to remind Americans that the crisis on the peninsula hasn't ended, so as to keep American forces in this region and tie America to their chariot. This operation can easily escalate the crisis between the North and the South, aggravating the status quo.

PO: North Korea did not take action against the South's artillery exercise. Why didn't the North "defend itself?"

Luo: North Korea's behavior seems to follow no routine at all, and that's its style. They take action only when the circumstance is propitious. What they do here has nothing to do with what they may do there, and the restraint they show on Yeonpyeong now won't lead to restraint in other areas.

PO: Is there any possibility of a war between the two sides if the situation continues to deteriorate? What measures would China adopt?

Luo: I suppose local clashes and conflicts are most likely to happen, yet the chance of an all-out war is remote. Neither side is showing a will for war. South Korea's backer, the US, would forbid South Korea to begin a war. The US cannot afford another war when it is still bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq. China is going to actively mediate between the two sides to settle them down by using its international influence to encourage a restrained and peaceful way to settle the dispute.

PO: Would China organize another voluntary army if a war breaks out?

Luo: This question is beyond my rank. In my eyes, the situation is quite different from what it was 60 years ago. At that time, the East and West were in confrontation, with the 38th Parallel on the Korean Peninsula being the political boundary. China's sending troops was out of consideration for both domestic interest and international context. We had to fight when Americans ignited the gunfire by the Yalu River and trespassed on Taiwan, which belonged to China. In addition, China carried out "leaning to one side" foreign policy at that time which meant leaning to the side of socialism.


Now the Cold War is in the past, so is the old international context. Nowadays national sovereignty and security take precedence, and we set our defense policy independently. China will neither instigate nor be intimidated by others.

PO: To China, what is the best state on the Korean Peninsula?

Luo: A "3-free situation" - nuclear-free, battle-free and disorders-free." North Korea's nuclear weapons will deteriorate China's neighboring nuclear security circumstances, which may give rise to a chain reaction, particularly if unexpected nuclear accidents happened or North Korea was attacked with a nuclear weapon. That would bring disaster to the area 400 to 1,400 kilometers around the nuclear detonation and one-fourth of China's territory would be in nuclear contamination. Therefore, we strongly oppose North Korea possessing nuclear weapons as well as military means to solve the Korean Peninsula nuclear crisis, which would do great harm to the security of Koreans' life and possessions. At the same time, it would place tremendous security and economic pressure along China's border.

PO: As we know, recently the United States and some of its allies held a large number of drills in Northeast Asia. What message is the US trying to deliver? What about Japan and South Korea?

Luo: Each of the three countries has their own intention: The US seeks predominance in the Asia-Pacific region using its aircraft carriers, hoping to form another NATO; South Korea aims at tying itself and the US firmly together so as to lower its own defense expenses while receiving US protection; Japan is attempting to break through the constraint of its pacifist constitution and turn itself into a military power in the region by "borrowing a boat to go to sea." They share the same goal of containing China, and we have to be vigilant.

PO: How much influence does China have on North Korea? There exists an opinion that China's influence is great.

Luo: Believing China has no influence on North Korea is as unrealistic as believing that China has a crucial influence. After all, the Chinese and North Korean people casted their friendship with blood and lives, and their friendship continue to this day, as shown in the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea. However, North Korea is an independent country advocating the "Juche Idea." It's impossible for it to completely obey other nations.


PO: After the large-scale Japan-US joint military drill, Japan revised its National Defense Program Guidelines and pointed to China as potential threat. What do you think of the revision?

Luo: As for their military drills, Japan's "borrowing a boat to go to sea" is a particular concern. Its defensive deployment turned from the northeast to the southwest, its target from the former Soviet Union to China, the combat readiness from "attention" to "vigilance," combat concept from passive "self-defense" to defensive as well as offensive "active defense."

These changes mean Japan is becoming more outward, aggressive and risky. Hence, we need to keep a close eye on Japan.

PO: Could you predict the upcoming situation on the Korean Peninsula?

Luo: Conflicts will often occur, but there's little possibility of war. They'll fight for an advantageous position in negotiations, yet finally return to the negotiation table.

PO: What viewpoint do you hold toward China keeping a low profile in handling international affairs? Is there any contradiction between the diplomatic perspective and military perspective?

Luo: Deng Xiaoping's "keeping a low profile and make due contributions" should be considered comprehensively and dialectically. Keeping a low profile is not conservation, and making a due contribution is not flaunting. The essence of keeping a low profile shall be timely action.

The key point of timely action is "timely," the essence of making a due contribution shall be brave action, which means being courageous to show muscle, and the key point of making a due contribution is "bravery."

Both diplomacy and the military ought to comply with and serve national interests while performing their own duty. Diplomacy aims at more friends and fewer enemies while a military solution intends to prevent war by war. Diplomatic mild win-win mode plus a military zero-sum game is the perfect combination.

All in all, "keeping a low profile" and "making a due contribution" compliments each other, keeping our country's balance.

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