Strategic consensus over future vital precursor to Pyongyang nuclear deal

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-11-20 20:23:01

Editor's Note:

Northeast Asia has been a hot spot among Asian geopolitical observers and analysts. Is it possible to accelerate the dissolving of the Cold War legacy in the predictable future? How will the relationship between big powers influence the dynamics in this region? The Asan Beijing Forum themed "Korea and China: Next 20 Years" recently gathered leading experts and scholars to share views on the shifting power relations and changes unfolding across the region.

Yang Xiyu, senior fellow at the China Institute of International Studies

I feel optimistic about Northeast Asia, but we should remain cautious. While the Korean Peninsula has been at peace since 1953, the quality of the peace is quite poor since it is actually based on mutual deterrence and is therefore unpredictable, unstable and fragile.

The Korean War (1950-53) and the Cold War (1947-91) left the Peninsula in a vicious cycle of crisis. In light of South Korea's rapid economic and military development and its close alliance with the US, North Korea has chosen provocative behavior by building up its nuclear capacities to guarantee its national security.

Furthermore, we are facing a complicated dilemma over North Korea's nuclear issue. All countries involved are waiting for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks, but meanwhile we are witnessing solid development of Pyongyang's nuclear program.

We have been trying to figure out a way to resolve the chronic standoff. The longer we wait, the more threats we will be exposed to.

For now, there is no better choice than to resume the Six-Party Talks, which, though, many claim is not effective enough. While expressing our concerns about the nuclear development in the North, we should also pay attention to its security and economic worries.

Pyongyang has been developing its nuclear capacities to guarantee their national security, which constitutes a shortcut to rebalance the gap with its southern neighbor in comprehensive national power.

Nuclear weapons are, first of all, not simply weapons, but a form of strategic leverage to help the isolated nation gain an advantage in Northeast Asia and even the world at large.

Given Pyongyang's misgivings, parties concerned should help North Korea improve national strength not by the nuclear program but by peaceful means.

Education plays an important role in persuading it to abandon nuclear ambitions. We can strive to force Pyongyang to realize that nuclear deterrence is not the only way to guarantee its national security; the fundamental driver is sustainability of the economy.

We have to work out a comprehensive deal with Pyongyang, which also needs a consensus that stems from common strategic assessment of the current situation on the peninsula. Signs of détente may appear only when a common view on the peninsula and the Northeast Asian regional order in flux is reached.

Han Suk-hee, associate professor of the Graduate School of International Studies at Yonsei University

The first notable change in regional order is the Sino-US relationship. China has been rising conspicuously versus the US in recent years, becoming the second economic power with an increasing voice on the world stage.

Given China's proposal of a "new type of major power relationship" and Washington's "pivot to Asia" strategy, the two sides will advance their collaboration in the foreseeable future despite minor frictions.

Another change is Japan's two-track diplomacy of consolidating alliance with Washington while neglecting boosting ties with Beijing and Seoul, which has drawn continuous criticism from its neighbors.

And the third change is South Korea's position in Northeast Asia. Sino-South Korean ties have taken a leap forward since President Park Geun-hye took office.

The two nations have common concerns over the Abe administration's nationalism and militarist lurch, but diverge over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, which, however, may also get them closer to effective solutions.

The regional order is suffering from the "Asian paradox" that means we are on healthy terms in economy but in confrontation in public politics.

That's why Park proposed the "Northeast Asian Peace and Cooperation Initiative" to address quandaries and promote mutual trust.

In addition, the Blue House is also engaged in middle power diplomacy, and the new alliance among Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia may help solve the problems in the Korean Peninsula and the whole region.

These two initiatives are aimed at the denuclearization of North Korea to realize a peaceful and stable Korean Peninsula and then establishing sound ties with other nations through multiple diplomatic policies. It is at least a benign beginning.

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